The Statute of Limitations on the Sentence

The main problem is to know from which date the limitation period applicable to the sentence starts to run. The finality of a court decision can be easily determined when the defendant or accused was present on the day of the hearing up until the deliberation: in this case, the correctional judgment or the criminal judgment will be rendered after the hearing of both parties, which means that the limitation period applicable to the sentence will run from the expiry of the appeal period of ten days.

When the decision is rendered in a contradictory fashion but must be served, which corresponds to the hypothesis of the defendant or accused being informed of the date of his trial and not attending the hearing, or by default - the defendant or accused did not go to the hearing because he was never properly informed of the date of the trial - it is the service of the judgment or ruling at the defendant's home, at a bailiff's office or at the public prosecutor's office, which starts the running of the time limit for appeal or opposition.

This time limit for appeal or opposition is ten days in criminal cases. The period of limitation of the sentence then runs from the date of service of the decision, to which ten days must be added. However, it is common for a greater or lesser amount of time to elapse between the time the decision was handed down and the time the decision was duly served. It is therefore important to take account of the way in which decisions in criminal matters are enforced, as dates are often misleading and we know that the statute of limitations is sometimes only a day away.

In criminal cases, however, the person convicted in absentia has no opportunity to lodge an objection, because if he or she surrenders to the authorities or is arrested within a period that does not exceed the statute of limitations, the conviction is automatically considered null and void, which means that the convicted person, who is once again the accused, will automatically be entitled to a new trial. This is why, in the case of a criminal default, it is the day on which the decision is handed down that sets in motion the period of limitation of the sentence, since the posting or publication of the judgment of conviction rendered in absentia no longer exists since the law of 9 March 2004.

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