White paper on crime 2017 Part2/Chapter1/2
In principle, a district court (for all offenses except for the offense of insurrection and those subject to a penalty of fine or less) or a summary court (for offenses subject to a penalty of fine or less, offenses with a fine as an optional statutory penalty or certain predesignated offenses including habitual gambling) is designated as a court of first instance for a criminal case.
Trials at courts of first instance are held in public. Where a defendant is found guilty, subject to the statutory penalty provided for the offense, the possible punishments include the following: death penalty, imprisonment with/without work, fine, misdemeanor imprisonment without work, or petty fine. Summary courts do not have jurisdiction to sentence a punishment severer than imprisonment without work except for certain predesignated offenses such as theft for which the court may sentence imprisonment with work for not more than three years.
Where the sentence is imprisonment with or without work for not more than three years or a fine of not more than 500,000 yen, the execution of the sentence can be suspended (suspended sentence), and where it is deemed necessary, the offender may be placed under probationary supervision during the period of suspension.
A speedy trial procedure is available for certain clear and minor cases (excluding offenses punishable by death, life imprisonment with or without work, and offenses only punishable by imprisonment for not less than one year), and the court must render a suspended sentence if it is to sentence imprisonment under this procedure.
Summary courts, upon the request of the public prosecutor, may order to impose a fine or a petty fine of not more than one million yen through the examination of evidentiary documents (summary proceeding). Those subjected to the summary order may request a formal trial, and thereafter, the case is to be tried in a public trial.
The public prosecutor and the defense may appeal the judgment of the court of first instance to the high court, and subsequently, to the Supreme Court.