The Law on the Amendments on the Execution and Bankruptcy Law and Other Laws No. 7445, also known as the 7th Judicial Reform Package, which brings significant changes, was published in the Official Gazette on April 5, 2023. The regulation introduces major modifications concerning deferred sentencing, judgments in absentia, the appeals process, drug offenses, and migrant smuggling, which will be examined in this article.

The appeal mechanism for deferred sentencing was restructured

The appeal mechanism for deferred sentencing, previously invalidated by the Constitutional Court, has been restructured and reenacted through the Amendment Law. In the repealed provision, it was stated that only deferred sentencing decisions could be appealed. However, in the application made to the Constitutional Court (AYM, E.2021/121, K.2022/88, 20/07/2022), it was argued that the appeals against deferred sentencing were only examined on procedural grounds, despite the Court of Cassation's decision, leading to discrepancies among the chambers. With the Amendment Law, it has now been explicitly written and enacted that the appellate authority will review the decision both in terms of procedure and substance.

Expansion of judgments in absentia

The Amendment Law narrows down the circumstances under which judgments in absentia can be given. Previously, under Article 193 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK), it was stated that only non-conviction decisions could be issued in the absence of the defendant. However, with the recent changes, the scope has been broadened to include cases where there is no place for sentencing, including security measures.

The conditions for appeals against the defendant were compounded

With the amendment, it is now mandatory for the Regional Courts of Justice's criminal divisions to find a substantial error that would affect the decision in appeals made by the Regional Prosecutor's Office against the definitive decisions of the Regional Courts of Justice.

Significant changes regarding drug offenses

The types of drugs leading to aggravating punishment under Article 188 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on drug and stimulant production and trafficking have been diversified. In addition to heroin, cocaine, morphine, buprenorphine, synthetic cannabinoids, and their derivatives; synthetic cathinone and derivatives, synthetic opioids and derivatives, or amphetamines and derivatives have also been included.

The probation period for purchasing, accepting, or possessing drugs or stimulants for personal use or using them has been extended. While the previous law allowed extensions in three-month periods for a maximum of one year, the new law has updated this period to six-month intervals and a maximum of two years. Furthermore, it is stated that the public prosecutor will decide on sending the suspect to the relevant institution at least twice a year to determine whether the suspect used drugs or stimulants during the deferment period.

An amendment to Article 71 of the Law on the Execution of Penalties and Security Measures makes it mandatory for convicts who committed the crime of purchasing, accepting, or possessing drugs or stimulants for personal use or using them and convicts addicted to drugs or stimulants, who were convicted of another crime, to participate in treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Penalties for migrant smuggling were increased

The minimum penalty for the offense of migrant smuggling has been raised from three years to five years. Moreover, the offense of migrant smuggling has been added to Annex 12 of the Law on Firearms and Knives and Other Tools, indicating that weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and equipment seized due to this crime can be allocated for the sake of public institutions.

With the amendment made to Article 43/A of the Misdemeanors Law, the previous version of the law stipulated that administrative fines could be imposed on private legal entities if certain crimes were committed for their benefit. However, with the recent change, the term "private" has been removed, making this article applicable to all legal entities, regardless of their nature. Thus, administrative fines can now be imposed on all legal entities for committing specific offenses for their benefit.

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