White paper on crime 2012 Part2/Chapter1/2
In principle a district court (as it has first instance jurisdiction over all offenses other than those subject to fine or lighter punishment and insurrection) or a summary court (as it has first instance jurisdiction over offenses subject to fine or lighter punishment, offenses punishable with fine as an optional penalty, and certain specific offenses such as habitual gambling) treats criminal cases as a first instance.
A first instance trial is subject to an ordinary trial procedure that takes place in an open court where offenders found guilty can be sentenced to the death penalty, imprisonment with work, imprisonment without work, fine, misdemeanor imprisonment without work, or petty fine. A summary court in principle cannot impose imprisonment or a heavier penalty, although it can impose imprisonment with work for at most three years for certain specified offenses such as theft. With cases involving the sentence of imprisonment with or without work for three years or less or fine of 500,000 yen or less, the execution of the sentence can, in the light of the circumstances, be suspended for a fixed period of time (suspension of execution of the sentence). In some cases the offenders can also be placed under probation during the suspended execution period. In addition, clear and minor cases, but excluding those involving offenses punishable by the death penalty, life imprisonment with or without work, or imprisonment with or without work for a minimum term of one year or more, can utilize the speedy trial procedure. A court rendering a judgment of imprisonment with or without work in a speedy trial procedure must render it with suspension of execution of the sentence. A summary court can render fine of no more than one million yen or petty fine to offenders through the summary trial procedure, examining the relevant documents. Anyone who received a summary order can request a formal trial, and in this case, the case is newly treated in the ordinary trial procedure.
An appeal to a court of second instance against judgment of a court of first instance can be filed to a high court and a final appeal against judgment made in appeal to a court of second instance to the Supreme Court.