Will sit: the number of acquittals dropped to a minimum

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The Judicial Department at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has published expanded data on the work of criminal and administrative justice in 2020. In the face of the pandemic, justice had to face new and complex challenges. How this affected the sentences and who most often ended up in the dock – in the material of Izvestia.

No more acquittals

Over the past year, 530,965 people were convicted in Russia, while almost 150 thousand were sentenced to imprisonment, about the same (about 148 thousand people) received suspended sentences. The number of excuses dropped to a record 1163 in recent years.

In 7061 cases, the judges decided to impose compulsory medical measures for the defendants’ insanity.

Most often, judges imposed a punishment of up to one year in prison as a real imprisonment (35,463 sentences). 45 people were sentenced to life imprisonment.


Photo: Izvestia / Zurab Javakhadze

The pandemic affected the intensity of the processes – 11.2% fewer sentences were passed in criminal cases. More than half of all guilty verdicts were imposed when the case was considered in a special order – more than 276 thousand convicted. It is worth clarifying that under the simplified procedure, the evidence is not examined in court, since the defendant fully agrees with the charge brought against him. Cases are considered faster, the defendant is guaranteed a shorter term. However, the quality of case investigation often suffers. After all, in fact, the entire accusation is built around the confession of the accused himself.

“In 2020, with a general decrease in the total number of criminal cases brought to the courts, the number of persons brought to justice also decreased,” Alexander Inoyadov, a lawyer, head of the criminal practice of BMS Law Firm, commented on the statistics to Izvestia. – The increase in the number of cases considered in a special order is due to the fact that changes in Art. 314 of the Criminal Procedure Code regarding the exclusion of grave crimes from this order entered into force only on July 30, 2020.


According to the Judicial Department, in criminal cases, a fine was imposed for a total amount of approximately 5.2 billion rubles. It is noteworthy that 860 thousand rubles of this amount were imposed in accordance with Article 104.4 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – in this case, the person is exempt from criminal liability and is considered to be convicted.


Photo: Izvestia / Alexander Kazakov

Most of all fines were imposed on such compositions as theft, fraud, illegal business. The leading position is occupied by a violation of traffic rules by a person subjected to administrative punishment (Art. 241.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), drunk drivers were fined more than 400 million rubles. Ahead of them are only corrupt officials – convicted of taking bribes were counted in fines in the amount of over 1 billion rubles. Almost 230 million rubles were ordered to pay the perpetrators of crimes related to the organization of illegal migration.

Union of parasitism and illiteracy

86% of convicts in Russia are men. Most criminals are in the age group 30–49 years old (301 thousand people). Slightly more than 3% of convicted foreigners, which is obviously associated with a sharp decline in migration flows. Of those who remained to wait out the wave of coronavirus in Russia and ended up on trial, the overwhelming majority are citizens of the CIS. Most often, people with specialized secondary (197 thousand) and secondary (188 thousand) education find themselves in the dock. There were more than 103 thousand people with only primary education or did not go to school at all. University graduates violate the criminal law much less often – there are slightly more than 8% of the total number of convicts.


Photo: Izvestia / Alexander Kazakov

The overwhelming majority of convicts in 2020 did not have a permanent source of income (more than 65%), in second place are representatives of blue-collar specialties (slightly more than 20%), then the disabled (4%), then students and students (slightly less than 3%). By the way, about youth: last year 14,703 teenagers were convicted, most often it was about such crimes as theft, robbery and drug trafficking. Compared to 2019, when there were about 17,000 such convicts, this is a clear decline.

Where does the money lie

In 2020, 7,473,008 individuals and legal entities were brought to administrative responsibility. This is a quarter more than in 2019. In 318 thousand cases, production was terminated without a penalty. This includes situations where only a verbal warning was given to the offender. Cases were considered against almost 5 million individuals, over a million officials, 53 thousand individual entrepreneurs and almost 200 thousand companies. In most cases, a fine was imposed as a punishment (67.5% of all cases); the total amount of penalties imposed was over 59 billion rubles.


Photo: RIA Novosti / Vitaly Belousov

Almost half a billion fell on beatings, 720 million – on violations of sanitary and epidemiological rules, petty hooligans brought the treasury only 57 million rubles. Violators of the established procedure for holding meetings and rallies were fined 33.5 million rubles last year. Traffic violations account for a significant share in the total amount of fines. 5.7 billion rubles were charged for driving in a state of intoxication, 4 billion – for refusing to undergo a medical examination, almost 600 million – for driving on the opposite lane. But the main penalty “item of income” is the punishment for non-payment of the previously imposed administrative fine; in 2020, over 30 billion rubles were collected under this article. However, it is still not possible to collect everything: for example, only 28% of the assigned amounts were obtained from drunk drivers.

Inside view

Lawyers told Izvestia how they managed to overcome “pandemic” difficulties in courts in practice.

It was especially difficult for the lawyers. Some did not cope with the difficulties and left the profession, says Vladimir Medvedev, a member of the Moscow bar association “Sed Lex”, an expert in the field of family law. The rest had to adapt to the new reality.

– The court offices were overwhelmed with calls, incoming mail. For hours and even days they had to sit on the phone or wait for weeks for an answer to written petitions. Some writs of execution and court orders had to wait a long time, there were cases for more than five months, – the lawyer recalls the situation in March last year.

A separate difficulty was the organization of work with detainees in custody.


Photo: Izvestia / Alexey Maishev

– All communication took place through two glasses, a grill and a telephone receiver. The suspects and the accused were not brought to the court sessions, videoconferencing was not always established, ”says the lawyer.

The situation has now returned to normal, but certain difficulties persist. According to the lawyer, 2020 opened our eyes to how work can be established, showing not only the disadvantages, but also the advantages in the form of saving personal time.

The Federal Chamber of Lawyers previously reported an increase in the number of appeals due to legal problems associated with the pandemic.

“Despite this, the situation on the legal services market is not much different from the general picture,” Tatyana Zavyalova, a member of the AYR, told Izvestia. “Around the world, thousands of lawyers lose their jobs, and companies have to change their financial and economic development strategy, which often hits ordinary employees in the first place.