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ResourcesThailand Criminal LawCriminal Jurisprudence ThailandCriminal Prosecution in Thailand: Entrance of Pleading

Criminal Prosecution in Thailand: Entrance of Pleading

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing criminal prosecutions here in the Kingdom of Thailand; specifically we are discussing the issue of entrance of a plea or entering one's plea of guilty or not guilty or specifically guilty or innocent depending on how you want to phrase that.

A couple of things to keep in mind. As stated I am an American Attorney. I am not a licensed Thai Attorney. I am licensed and qualified as an Attorney in the United States. I am the Managing Director of our firm here in Bangkok. I am a Thai citizen but again I am not a Thai attorney. So the thing to take away from this video is although I provide some nuance, context and information on a very superficial level, this entire video is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal advice. Those watching this video should contact a Thai Legal professional; preferably a licensed and qualified Thai Attorney to go ahead and undertake matters pertaining to criminal actions in the Kingdom of Thailand, especially if one is seeking representation as one is a defendant in an ongoing or perspective criminal prosecution. 

Now the other thing to keep in mind with respect to this video: the information or the bullet points contained herein have been reviewed by our Thai legal staff. I have basically been tasked with providing this information to those who are looking at it from a foreign context. Again in my capacity as a licensed American Attorney, I can provide some insight into this having been over here and been involved, at least on a tertiary level, with certain criminal cases that have come through our office. That being said, again that should not be viewed as specific legal advice. It should only be viewed as informal, superficial information pertaining to the legal proceedings associated with a criminal prosecution in Thailand. 

So that being stated we have done two videos previously about the prosecutor’s "inquiry phase", the “police inquiry phase”. The police pass along the case to the prosecutor. Then the prosecutor makes the decision whether or not to proceed to bring charges in the courts.  Now at that point, the prosecutor needs to notify the defendant probably and their attorney as well, depending on the circumstances of the case, and then they go ahead and proceed with filing of charges. The case then needs to be brought to the court. Presumably the defendant for lack of better term is permitted to go ahead and make a plea. Now at this point it should be noted, especially for those coming from an American context where we have the notion of  "plea bargaining", there is nothing akin to "plea bargaining" in the Thai legal system so there is none of this for lack of a better term, back-and-forth negotiation, between the defendant and the prosecution with respect to pleading to a lesser charge or something in order to go ahead and move the case off the court's docket and move things on.  That is done under an efficiency paradigm in the legal system in the United States whereby the State is presumably saved the time and expense of a costly trial while the defendant gains a certain degree of certainty with respect to making their plea. That is really not how things work in Thailand. I can say this as an observer but I can say it from the perspective of a first-hand observer; I have seen these cases move through. That is not how it works. They don't go in and make these plea deals similar to the United States. The defendant goes ahead and pleads "guilty" or "not guilty"; yes I think the courts take into consideration time saved by pleading guilty etc. but a plea bargain in and of itself is not part of the overall system here in the Kingdom so that's something that needs to be understood especially by foreigners who think they understand the legal system and really don't have any fundamental clue as to how it actually operates. Prior to a plea and then subsequent to a plea, a judge goes ahead and reviews the charges and decides that the case is going to go ahead and move forward. 

Primarily it should be noted, police in Thailand do not make recommendations to the prosecutor to pursue a case and prosecutors do not make recommendations to the court that charges need to be filed and a case needs to be pursued unless they are fairly certain that it is at least not a frivolous case. Now I think they probably in their own minds are quite certain as to what they believe the facts and the legalities of the case are but those that I sought of viewing this should understand that when adjudge reviews this the judge is not going to open that file and say "Oh my goodness, I am throwing this out summarily!" I don't think that that is a reasonable thing to presume. On the contrary this case is going to be reviewed by a judge after the eyeballs of many staffers from various prosecutorial agencies as well as a multiple probably a number of police have had involvement with the overall case and under those circumstances the judge is going to make that determination and again cases are not going to be brought before a judge here in Thailand without there being at least some substantial merit associated therewith. So at that particular phase of the trial, I don't think it is always necessarily reasonable to presume a summary judgment in the defendant's favor. That being said, it is possible. There could be cases which I brought without a substantial amount of marriage to them etc. and if a judge reviews a case and goes ahead and says, "Look, I don't see that that is enough evidence here to warrant moving forward", well that is the judges prerogative and there you go. That being said I think that is probably unlikely in many cases but I am not a Thai attorney so it is probably a good idea for those who have gotten through the prosecution phase who don't have an attorney, it would probably be a good idea to go ahead and seek, and by the way, the prosecution phase, I mean the prosecutorial inquiry phase, probably not a bad idea to go ahead and seek Legal professional advice with respect to how to proceed in the matter and seek representation for criminal prosecution at that point moving forward.