White paper on crime 2013 Part2/Chapter1/2
In principle a district court (for all offenses except for and insurrection those subject to a fine or less severe punishment) or a summary court (for offenses subject to a fine or less severe penalty, offenses for which a fine may be imposed and certain offenses including habitual gambling) is designated as a court of first instance in a criminal case.
Trials held in courts of first instance are held in open court. Where a defendant is found guilty, subject to the nature of the offense, the possible punishment includes the following: death penalty, imprisonment with or without work, fine, misdemeanor imprisonment without work, or petty fine. The summary court basically does not have jurisdiction over cases for which imprisonment or a more severe penalty should be imposed; however, it may exercise jurisdiction over the cases of certain offenses, including theft, for which a sentence of imprisonment with work for not more than three years could be imposed.
Where the sentence is to be imprisonemnt with or without work for not more than three years or a fine not more than 500,000 yen, a suspended sentence may be rendered, and where necessary, the offender may be placed under probationary supervision during its suspension.
An expedited trial procedure is available for certain clear and minor cases (excluding offenses punishable by capital punishment, life imprisonment with or without work, and offenses only punishable by imprisonment not less than one year), and thereunder, courts must render suspended sentence.
At summary court, a summary trial procedure is available, and thereunder, a sentence of a fine not more than one million yen or a petty fine is rendered through the examination of evidentiary documents. Those sentenced under the summary procedure may request re-examination utilizing standard trial procedures, and thereafter, a public trial is held for the case.
Public prosecutors and the defense may appeal the judgment of the court of first instance to the high court, and subsequently, to the Supreme Court.