A major difference in the criminal law in Mexico is the proceedings, the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent. Contrary to the Hollywood portrayal of the police in Mexico, they seldom detain anyone, especially respectable citizens of another country, unless there is serious cause or reason to suspect their guilt.
When a crime is reported, it will be investigated by the District Attorney’s office with support from the police. If the investigation reveals a suspect, the District Attorney will present the results of the investigation to a criminal Judge and request permission to arrest the suspect and go to Trial. The Judge may or may not issue a Writ of Arrest, based on the evidence.
A significant difference in the investigation process is that the suspect must be questioned along with witnesses and provide statements. This is normally done at the District Attorney’s office, but no Lawyer is allowed to be present.
If the suspect is arrested, he/she is taken to jail, processed and fingerprinted. Within 48 hours the accused appears at a Public Hearing where the charges are read and the accuser named. The suspect can make a general statement and the issue of Release on Bond is covered. Normally Release on Bond is allowed if the sentence for the crime is less than five years and the accused does not have a record.
From this time on, the accused may have a Lawyer represent him/her in all aspects of the trial. If the accused cannot afford a lawyer, the Judge will appoint a Public Defender. The accused has the constitutional right not to incriminate him/herself and need not testify against him/herself.
During the first 48 hours after arrest, the accused may present evidence of innocence. The Judge must decide with 72 hours whether to proceed with Trial or not, based on the evidence presented. Anyone arrested cannot be held beyond 72 hours without charges being laid and arraigned before a Judge.
During a Focus on Mexico Program you will learn from our Legal Expert all the ins and outs of the legal system and come to understand the differences between the United States, Canada and Mexico. You’ll get all the information and be in a position to make an informed decision specific to your personal situation.