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Bulgarian Criminal Procedure: The New Philosophy and Issues of Approximation

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image of Review of Central and East European Law
For more content, see Review of Socialist Law.

The Bulgarian legal system forms part of the continental legal family and shares the main features of continental law. One of them is the codification of the main branches of law, among which is Criminal Procedure. In Bulgaria—as in all European countries—the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) is the main source of procedural rules of law. It was adopted in 1974 and entered into force in 1975; it was notable in its similarity to the CCP of the Soviet Union.

Since 1975, it has been subjected to a vast number of amendments, most of which were introduced after 1990 as a consequence of radical changes in the Bulgarian political, economic, and legal system. Some of the amendments to CCP have brought the criminal justice system in line with the new 1991 Bulgarian Constitution and with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR)—ratified by the Republic of Bulgaria in 1992—as well as with other international acts and obligations, signed or undertaken by Bulgaria. Other amendments have provided for conceptually new institutions, unknown prior to this period in the development of Bulgarian procedural theory and practice.

In short, Bulgarian criminal procedure has—since 1990—been undergoing a period of major reform, the most significant expression of which is to be seen in amendments to CCP, adopted in 1999. They represent what is called a "new philosophy" of criminal procedure. The basic elements thereof are:

— instituting judicial control over investigative acts and coercive measures affecting fundamental human rights (detention, house arrest, committing a person to a psychiatric hospital for examination, prohibition against leaving the country, searches, seizures, etc.);

— speeding up and simplifying the criminal process;

— introducing more adversarial elements into judicial proceedings;

— introducing police investigation as an alternative to preliminary investigations under which most criminal offenses would be investigated by police officers through more informal police investigative procedures than those of the more formal preliminary investigation.


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