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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Some Key Differences Between the Romanian Criminal Justice System and the United States System

October 24, 2010

The Romanian criminal system is substantially different from the system in the United States. 

•        Civil Law vs. Common Law.  The United States has a constitutionally modified system rooted in English Common Law that is known as a “common law system.”  A common law system is also known as a case law system.  In these systems, law is developed by judges through decisions of courts rather than strictly by reading statutes.  In these systems great weight is given to decisions of prior courts and those decisions become precedent that binds future court decision.  This is done on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different occasions.  In contrast, the Romanian system is based on Roman law and the Napoleonic Code and is known as a “civil law system.”  In civil law systems the main principle is that all citizens should have access to a written collection of laws which apply to them and which judges, not bound by prior court decisions except for certain strict situations, must follow.   

•        In the Romanian system there are no juries – trials (both civil and criminal) are “bench trials” meaning it is the judge alone or a panel of judges who hear the evidence and render a verdict. 

•         In the Romanian criminal system there are two types of prosecutors: the investigating prosecutor and the trial prosecutor.   Once the investigation is finalized and the indictment is forwarded to the court by the investigating prosecutor, the trial prosecutor takes over the case.  A different trial prosecutor appears in court depending on the stage of trial.