Criminal Law Procedures in Jordan

Criminal Law Procedure

Generally, persons arrested by the police are brought before a magistrate and charged with a crime within 48 hours after the arrest. However, public prosecutors may order suspects kept in custody indefinitely in connection with a pending investigation. Such detentions may be challenged by the defense, in which case some showing of cause for continuing confinement must be shown by the prosecutor.

Persons charged with a crime are not compelled to say anything to the authorities. They are usually warned before testimony is taken that what they say may be used against them and that they have the right to see a lawyer. Defendants may have a lawyer represent them (although this is rare in the Magistrate’s court). The court will appoint a lawyer for defendants charged with a potential sentence of death or life imprisonment if they cannot afford one.

Defendants have the right to cross-examine witnesses and to present their own witnesses. All cases are heard by judges as there is no jury trial in Jordan. Cases may be appealed by either the defendant or the prosecution.

A defendant’s charges of mistreatment are considered by the court in adjudicating a case or determining a sentence. Confessions have at times been disregarded when a court determined it may have been given under duress. When mistreatment is alleged, a prisoner is examined by a doctor and his report is considered by the court.

The case against a person is always presented by one of the public prosecutors, except at the magistrate’s court where a police officer generally presents the evidence against the accused. The Attorney General, who supervises all public prosecutors, handles the government’s case at the Court of Appeals. The Chief Attorney General who is the government’s top legal advocate, represents the government in the Court of Cassation.

Jordanian criminal law is based on the Ottoman Law of 1858, which in turn is based upon the French Penal Code of 1810. In 1960 Jordan issued Criminal Law no. 16. This law was strongly influenced by the Lebanese Criminal Law of 1943, which borrowed provisions from the French Penal Code regarding penalties for crimes committed against women (art 562).

After amendments were passed to article 98 of the penal code in 2017, perpetrators of honor crimes can no longer receive lenient sentences. However, a loophole still exists in article 340 that allows lenient sentences for the murder of a spouse found red-handedly committing adultery.

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