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World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems: Costa Rica

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1993
This overview of Costa Rica's criminal justice system encompasses political and legal systems, the nature and extent of crime, victims, law enforcement, the prosecutorial and judicial process, the judicial system, penalties and sentencing, the prison system, and extradition and treaties.

Costa Rica has had a democratic system of government since its independence from Spain in 1821. The legal system is based on Romano-Germanic law, and the civil law system views crime as an offense against the state rather than against the individual. Crime categories include felonies and misdemeanors, and the age of criminal responsibility is 18 years. Crime statistics for 1993 indicate 504 murders, 203 forcible rapes, 4,250 robberies, 60 arson cases, and 210 drug law offenses were reported. Victim services are available in Costa Rica, including rape crisis centers, victim support groups, counseling, and aftercare, and crime victims have an opportunity to make a statement to the judge during the pretrial investigation phase of a criminal case. The police force has four main branches: judicial police, metro police, Rural Guard, and Civil Guard. Police officers are authorized to use force, stop and apprehend suspects, conduct searches and seizures, and elicit confessions. The prosecutorial and judicial process is concerned with rights of the accused and procedures for bringing suspects to trial. The judicial system includes the Supreme Court, the Tribunal Superior, and lower courts. The judge determines sentences, and the range of available penalties includes fines, imprisonment, and house arrest. Costa Rica has four major correctional facilities and has extradition treaties with several Latin American and European countries and China. 14 references

Date Published: June 1, 1993