Chapter 3 Courts

In principle, a district court (for all offenses except for the offense of insurrection and those subject to a penalty of a fine or less) or a summary court (for offenses subject to a penalty of a fine or less, offenses for which a fine is an optional statutory penalty or certain predesignated offenses including habitual gambling) is designated as a court of first instance for a criminal case.

Trials in courts of first instance are held in public. Where a defendant is found guilty, and is subject to the statutory penalty provided for an offense, possible punishments include the following: death penalty, imprisonment with/without work, fine, penal detention, or petty fine. Summary courts do not have jurisdiction to impose a punishment of imprisonment or a heavier penalty, except certain predesignated offenses, such as theft, for which the courts may impose a sentence of imprisonment with work for not more than three years.

Where a sentence is imprisonment with or without work for not more than three years or a fine of not more than 500,000 yen, an execution of the sentence can be fully or partially suspended (suspension of execution of sentence), and where it is deemed necessary, an offender may be placed under probationary supervision during a period of suspension.

Summary courts may order imposition of a fine of not more than one million yen or a petty fine (summary order) based on an examination of evidentiary documents (summary proceeding). Those subjected to a summary order may request a formal trial, and thereafter, a case will be tried in a public trial.

The defendant and public prosecutor may appeal a judgment of a court of first instance to a high court, and subsequently, to the Supreme Court.