The second wave of COVID-19 infections has led the Italian government to come up with new measures to prevent the justice system from grinding to a halt and contagion from spreading in the courts.
Italian Decree No. 137 of October 28, 2020 includes a package of measures impacting, among other areas, criminal investigations and proceedings.
Major new issues concern the preliminary investigation phases of trials, which are now to be digitalized in new ways:
- Public prosecutors are now allowed to conduct remote interviews of the person under investigation, the victim of the crime, witnesses, and expert witnesses, who participate from the nearest police office. The defense counsel of the person under investigation has the right to request an in-person interview or to attend the interview from his/her office or together with the interviewed person (when the lawyer is allowed to participate). In any case, the right of the person under investigation to confer with his/her defense counsel privately and confidentially must be guaranteed.
- Petitions and briefs can be filed online. Depending on the nature of the documents to be filed, different solutions are provided (filing by certified email or through the electronic platform of the judicial offices).
Measures are also provided for the hearings for the purpose of restricting the number of participants. These include the following:
- Public hearings may be held in camera;
- Remote hearings can be scheduled with the agreement of the parties; the defendant (who is not incarcerated) participates from the same location as the defense counsel;
- Hearings in which witnesses, parties, or experts have to be examined, as well as hearings for providing final statements, must be held in person;
- Magistrates can convene remotely to decide the case.