BOOK VII: PROCESSES
PART IV: THE PENAL PROCESS
CHAPTER I: THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION
Can. 1717 §1 Whenever the Ordinary receives information, which has at least
the semblance of truth, about an offence, he is to enquire
carefully, either personally or through some suitable person,
about the facts and circumstances, and about the imputability of
the offence, unless this enquiry would appear to be entirely
§2 Care is to be taken that this investigation does not call into question anyone's good name.
§3 The one who performs this investigation has the same powers and obligations
as an auditor in a process. If, later, a judicial process is initiated, this person may not take part in it as a judge.
Can. 1718 §1 When the facts have been assembled, the Ordinary is to decide:
1° whether a process to impose or declare a penalty can be initiated;
2° whether this would be expedient, bearing in mind Can. 1341;
3° whether a judicial process is to be used or, unless the law forbids it,
whether the matter is to proceed by means of an extra-judicial decree.
§2 The Ordinary is to revoke or change the decree mentioned in §1 whenever new
facts indicate to him that a different decision should be made.
§3 In making the decrees referred to in §§1 and 2, the Ordinary, if he considers
it prudent, is to consult two judges or other legal experts.
§4 Before making a decision in accordance with §1, the Ordinary is to consider
whether, to avoid useless trials, it would be expedient, with the
parties' consent, for himself or the investigator to make a
decision, according to what is good and equitable, about the
question of harm.
Can. 1719 The acts of the investigation, the decrees of the Ordinary by which the
investigation was opened and closed, and all those matters which
preceded the investigation, are to be kept in the secret curial
archive, unless they are necessary for the penal process.
CHAPTER II: THE COURSE OF THE PROCESS
Can. 1720 If the Ordinary believes that the matter should proceed by way of an
1° he is to notify the accused of the allegation and the evidence, and give
an opportunity for defence, unless the accused, having been lawfully summoned, has failed to appear;
2° together with two assessors, he is accurately to weigh all the evidence and arguments;
3° if the offence is certainly proven and the time for criminal action has not
elapsed, he is to issue a decree in accordance with cann.
1342-1350, outlining at least in summary form the reasons in law and in fact.
Can. 1721 §1 If the Ordinary decrees that a judicial penal process is to be
initiated, he is to pass the acts of the investigation to the
promotor of justice, who is to present to the judge a petition of
accusation in accordance with cann. 1502 and 1504.
§2 Before a higher tribunal, the promotor of justice constituted for that
tribunal adopts the role of plaintiff.
Can. 1722 At any stage of the process, in order to prevent scandal, protect the
freedom of the witnesses and safeguard the course of justice, the
Ordinary can, after consulting the promotor of justice and
summoning the accused person to appear, prohibit the accused from
the exercise of the sacred ministry or of some ecclesiastical
office and position, or impose or forbid residence in a certain
place or territory, or even prohibit public participation in the
blessed Eucharist. If, however, the reason ceases, all these
restrictions are to be revoked; they cease by virtue of the law
itself as soon as the penal process ceases.
Can. 1723 §1 When the judge summons the accused, he must invite the latter to
engage an advocate, in accordance with Can. 1481 §1, but within
the time laid down by the judge.
§2 If the accused does not do this, the judge himself is to appoint an advocate
before the joinder of the issue, and this advocate will remain in
office for as long as the accused has not engaged an advocate.
Can. 1724 §1 At the direction or with the consent of the Ordinary who decided
that the process should be initiated, the promotor of justice in
any grade of the trial can resign from the case.
§2 For validity, this resignation must be accepted by the accused person, unless
he or she has been declared absent from the trial.
Can. 1725 In the argumentation of the case, whether done in writing or orally, the
accused person or the advocate or procurator of the accused,
always has the right to write or speak last.
Can. 1726 If in any grade or at any stage of a penal trial, it becomes quite
evident that the offence has not been committed by the accused,
the judge must declare this in a judgement and acquit the
accused, even if it is at the same time clear that the period for
criminal proceedings has elapsed.
Can. 1727 §1 The offender can appeal, even if discharged in the judgement only
because the penalty was facultative, or because the judge used
the power mentioned in cann. 1344 and 1345.
§2 The promotor of justice can appeal whenever he considers that the reparation
of scandal or the restitution of justice has not been
sufficiently provided for.
Can. 1728 §1 Without prejudice to the canons of this title, and unless the
nature of the case requires otherwise, in a penal trial the judge
is to observe the canons concerning judicial procedures in
general, those concerning the ordinary contentious process, and
the special norms about cases which concern the public good.
§2 The accused person is not bound to admit to an offence, nor may the oath be
administered to the accused.
CHAPTER III: THE ACTION TO COMPENSATE FOR HARM
Can. 1729 §1 In accordance with Can. 1596, a party who has suffered harm from an
offence can bring a contentious action for making good the harm
in the actual penal case itself.
§2 The intervention of the harmed party mentioned in §1 is no longer
admitted if the intervention was not made in the first instance
of the penal trial.
§3 An appeal in a case concerning harm is made in accordance with cann. 1628-1640,
even if an appeal cannot be made in the penal case itself. If,
however, there is an appeal on both headings, there is to be only
one trial, even though the appeals are made by different persons,
without prejudice to the provision of Can. 1730.
Can. 1730 §1 To avoid excessive delays in a penal trial, the judge can postpone
the trial concerning harm until he has given a definitive
judgement in the penal trial.
§2 When the judge does this he must, after giving judgement in the penal trial,
hear the case concerning harm, even though the penal trial is
still pending because of a proposed challenge to it, or even
though the accused has been acquitted, when the reason for the
acquittal does not take away the obligation to make good the
Can. 1731 A judgement given in a penal trial, even though it has become an
adjudged matter, in no way creates a right for a party who has
suffered harm, unless this party has intervened in accordance
with can. 1729.
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