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    Prescription of crimes in Greece

    Prescription of crimes in Greece

    Once a criminal offence lapses, it is clear that a sanction can no longer be imposed; therefore, the accused shall be acquitted. Equally, where a defendant has been convicted in default of appearance, but he/she is not arrested within a specific time limit, he/she is no longer liable to serve the sentence, since the latter has already lapsed!

    The time when a crime lapses is specified by the Greek Penal Code as follows:

    1. Felonies: after 20 years, if punishable with life incarceration, and after 15 years in any other case, i.e. where punishable with temporary imprisonment (5 to 20 years).
    2. Misdemeanours: after 5 years.
    3. Petty offences: after 1 year.

    Prescription runs upon commission of the criminal offence, but it is suspended throughout the duration of the main legal proceedings and up until the conviction becomes irrevocable, as follows: 5 years for felonies, 3 years for misdemeanours, and 1 year for petty offences.

    The service upon the accused of a writ of summons (issued upon an accusal indictment) or a warrant for direct appearance before a court hearing signifies the initiation of the legal proceedings; so, if such service takes place, the prescription period is suspended as per the above, and it may totally amount to 25 years (or 20 years respectively) for felonies, 8 years for misdemeanours, and 2 years for petty offences. (N.b. the prescription period is only suspended following the lawful service of a notice to appear; namely, in the event that the latter is declared invalid, the suspension is considered to never have occurred.)

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