White paper on crime 2011 Part2/Chapter1/2
In principle the first instance trial of a criminal case takes place in 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 offenses such as habitual gambling).
The first instance trial is subject to the ordinary trial procedure that takes place in open courts 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. Summary courts in principle cannot impose imprisonment or a heavier penalty, although they can impose imprisonment with work for at most three years for certain 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 be, in the light of the circumstances, 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, from October 2, 2006, clear and minor cases, but excluding those of 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 be treated utilizing 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. In addition, a summary court can utilize the summary trial procedure through examining the relevant documents where offenders can be sentenced to fine or petty fine of no more than one million yen. Anyone that is dissatisfied with the results of a summary trial can request a formal trial, and in this case the case is anew treated in an ordinary trial procedure.
Appeals to the court of second instance against judgments in the first instance can be filed to a high court and final appeals against judgments made in appeals to the court of second instance to the Supreme Court.