PRINCIPLES OF CRIMINAL LAW

The Dominican Criminal Code sets forth three types of criminal offenses depending on their seriousness: misdemeanors ("contravenciones"), felonies ("delitos") and crimes ("crimenes").

Penalties applicable to felonies include: deportation, temporary prison of up to two years, limitation of exercise of certain civic and family rights, and fines. Penalties applicable to crimes include: detention, two to five years of prison, 20 or 30 years of prison, and civic degradation. It should be noted that a bill has been submitted to Congress that provides for the inclusion of life sentences in Dominican criminal legislation.

Criminal courts are also entitled to condemn persons found guilty of felonies or crimes to the payment of indemnities to the victims. Furthermore, property may be confiscated when such property is the evidence or the results of a felony or crime.

Offenses subject to special laws include:

  • The issue of checks without funds, which is a felony.
  •  Drug-trafficking and money laundering, which are crimes (Law 50-88 on Drugs and Controlled Substances, Law 72-02 on Money Laundering and Law 19-03 on Custody Office of Confiscated Assets).
  •  Fiscal offences and felonies, which are sanctioned with fines, prison, confiscation of property, closing of business, prohibition of professional practice, cancellation of permits, etc. (1992 Tax Code).

CRIMES OF DOMINICAN JURISDICTION

Dominican courts have jurisdiction to try foreigners who infringe criminal laws in the country, even when the victim is also a foreign person. On the contrary, offenses committed by foreigners abroad do not fall under the jurisdiction of Dominican courts, even when the accused is a Dominican resident or when the victim is a Dominican citizen.

Dominican courts may try crimes committed by Dominican citizens abroad when the following conditions are met:

  • The violation is punished by Dominican laws;
  • The accused has not been tried abroad;
  • Dominican authorities have received a formal complaint from the victim or the foreign government; and
  • The accused is in the country.


EXTRADITION

Extradition provides the formal surrender of an individual by one country to another so that the person be tried or sentenced for crimes committed in that country.

The extradition of Dominican citizens is prohibited. This prohibition applies also to foreigners, which have obtained Dominican nationality before committing the crime that motivates the extradition request.

a) Extradition Procedure

In the absence of international treaties, Dominican laws provide that the country can grant extradition according to reciprocity principles. Extradition may be active or passive.

A) Active Extradition. When a person against who there has been a criminal accusation and arrest orders have been issued, is found to be in a foreign country, the competent court or judge is entitled to initiate an extradition process, at the request of the Public Attorney or the parties. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must then send the extradition request to the foreign government within two months.

B) Passive Extradition. Extradition requests made in relation to persons that are in the Dominican Republic must be sent by the Executive Power to the Supreme Court of Justice for the taking of a decision.


b) Extradition Treaties

The Dominican Republic has signed extradition treaties with the United States and Spain. Furthermore, the country is a member of the Inter-American Extradition Convention of 1981.

Allowing for a few variations, these treaties have the following elements:

  • The offense must have a certain importance and lack political motivations.
  • An official request must be made through the proper channels.
  • The country making the request must have jurisdiction to try the offence that motivates the request.
  • The country will be obliged to deliver the accused if all conditions are met.
  • The accused cannot be tried or sentenced for a crime different than that motivating the extradition.
  • Extradition cannot be granted if the statute of limitations for the offence has expired, or if the accused has already been tried and served his sentence.
  • If the extradition is requested to serve a sentence, the pending sentence must be at least six months.
  • Extradition may be delayed for health problems of the accused, or to allow the accused to be tried and serve sentence in the country for any other crimes that he may have committed in its territory.

DEPORTATION

Foreigners which undertake any of the following activities in the Dominican territory may be arrested and deported to their country of origin:

  • Infringement of immigration laws, such as illegal entry in the country, use of false documents, stay in the country after expiration of visa, etc.
  • Subversive activities against the Dominican Government.
  • Drug-trafficking.
  • Conviction of a crime within five years after entering the country.
  • Practice of prostitution or related activities.
  • Becoming a public burden within five years after entering the country.

The officers charged of investigating these cases are the immigration inspectors, who may request arrest orders to the Immigration Director. However, the foreigner cannot be deported without having previously the chance to defend himself from the charges of which he has been accused.

Written by: Pellerano & Herrera, Attorneys at Law, ph@phlaw.com
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