Judicial stats show few criminal cases go to court

Only about 32 cases are tried out of every 1,000 criminal complaints filed in Costa Rica, according to statistics released by judicial researchers.

Poder Judicial researchers said that nearly 11,000 criminal cases went to court in 2011, about 10 percent more than the year before, according to a summary highlighting the findings.

In these cases about 7,100 people were convicted of crimes and 3,900 were acquitted.

This report is one of many that statistical researchers in Poder Judicial hand out piecemeal every year using the data from the previous year.

This report specifically deals with aggregated data from all of Costa Rica’s regional criminal courts. The data includes some demographic information of those going through the system and the crimes of which they are accused.

In 2011, researchers said that about 11,000 criminal cases went to trial, with 7,100 convictions amounting to one out of every 32 complaints. That equates to about 227,200 criminal complaints filed that year. A news storylast week cited a survey that showed only about 51 percent of crime victims file a report.

Considering the complaints that are actually filed, only about 3 percent of criminals will stand before a judge.

Despite the low number, judicial researchers said that this is the second consecutive year where the number of cases being tried has increased. The number of criminal trials in 2011 is about 1,100 cases higher than in 2010 and the highest it has been in five years, the report said.

The three most common types of criminal cases leading to a conviction were about 3,300 crimes against property, 1,000 drug crimes and 700 sexual crimes. According to the report, these accounted for 81 percent of the convictions.

Researchers also tracked prison sentences given to those 7,100 found guilty. About 100 received  sentences of a matter of days, 500 of a month to year, 250 of less than three years, 950 of three to five years, 1,200 of five to seven years, 650 of seven to 10 years and 800 of more than 10 years.

About 2,500 convicted criminals received conditional sentences which are more flexible and lenient.

About 900 of those convicted were foreigners, including nearly 700 Nicaraguans, the report said.

The majority of these cases were tried in courts around the capitol area with 1,000 cases in first circuit court in San José, 800 in the San José flagrancy court and 800 in the Pavas first circuit court.

Out of the 11,000 trials, 82 percent of the defendants faced a judge for the first time. Judicial records said that the other 18 percent of accused criminals have sat through criminal proceedings in the past.

Researchers also found that nearly two-thirds of the defendants in these cases were between the ages of 20 and 39 and that 5,500 listed themselves as single while 2,700 listed themselves as married.

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