The criminal procedure consists of several stages. If there is, on the basis of a report made to the police or otherwise, reason to suspect that an offence has been committed, the police or another criminal investigation authority (the Finnish Border Guard, Finnish Customs) must first conduct a criminal investigation.
A criminal investigation is carried out in cooperation between the criminal investigation authorities and the prosecutor. The prosecutor is responsible for ensuring that criminal liability is imposed in the criminal procedure, consideration of charges and trial as required by the legal protection of the parties concerned and the public interest. Once the criminal investigation is completed, the criminal investigation materials are submitted to the prosecutor, who then, based on the materials, decides whether there is reason to bring charges or whether a decision to waive charges shall be issued. This stage is called the consideration of charges.
If the prosecutor decides to bring charges, he or she will initiate the matter in a district court. In the proceedings at the district court, the prosecutor presents the charge and the accused, i.e. the defendant, responds to it. The prosecutor bears the burden of proof, in other words he or she must prove that the defendant has actually committed the act described in the charge. The prosecutor and the defendant may call witnesses to testify and present written evidence to prove their case. Some cases may be considered in a written procedure. If the offender has confessed, the case may, under certain conditions laid down by law and based on a proposal for judgment issued by the prosecutor, be considered in proceedings on the basis of a plea of guilty. The last stage in court proceedings is the issue of a judgment. If one of the parties appeals against the judgment, the case will be considered by a court of appeal in accordance with the provisions governing the appeal procedure.
The criminal procedure must meet the requirements of a fair trial. It is of utmost importance to ensure the legal protection of both the defendant and the injured party. Prompt proceedings and reasonable costs are also among the objectives for the administration of justice.
One of the measures that aim to promote these objectives is the possibility to use the summary procedure for imposing fines and fixed fines for example for petty traffic violations, which are rather common.
The Legal Register Centre is responsible for the enforcement of fines and fixed fines.
The Criminal Sanctions Agency is responsible for the enforcement of sentences of imprisonment and community sanctions.