In June of 2008, Mexico approved a reform to transform its judicial system from inquisitorial to accusatorial with the purpose to be fairer to defendants, protect human rights, reducing wrongful convictions, fully endorse the now explicit “innocence presumption and with the use of preventive prison only as an exceptional mechanism.
A period of 8 years was given for changes to take place, requiring penal procedures codes from the 31 states and the Federal District to be adapted in order to implement the accusatory system. By 2013, most of the states were not ready and the ones who did, had important discrepancies among their codes and there were no serious discussions about the federal procedure code.
The situation started a debate among the different powers (federal and local) and the private sector about the possibility of creating a single procedure penal code that will ensure the application of the new judicial system. After long debates the Federal Constitution was changed to allow the Federal Congress to create and enforce a National Procedure Code to regulate the accusatory system in Mexico in Federal and local jurisdiction. This Code will enter into force gradually in the different states but should be applied by June 18, 2016. It is known as “Código Nacional de Procedimientos Penales”.
On June 10th 2014, Quintana Roo State started implementing the new judicial system at Chetumal, Bacalar and Othon P. Blanco districts. Cozumel, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and other districts will follow within the next two years but should be applied by June 18, 2016.
It is important to mention the two mayor differences that will remain between the judicial system in Countries as United States and Mexico:
First.- Mexican system will remain as Civil Law (the primary source of law is the law code) vs the United States system that is base on Common Law system.
Second.- There will be no jury in Mexican Courts. A Judge will conduct the hearings and decide regarding the innocence or guilt of the defendant and the penalty in his/her judgment.
The operators of the system, Judges, district attorneys, public defenders, police officers, court clerks, will receive certain training paid by the government. Private attorneys would have to seek their own training and learn the skills for the new system as oral argumentation.
The defendant will be entitle to appoint counsel and hire a lawyer but the Judge could dismiss the attorney and appoint a public defender if his lack of knowledge in the new judicial system is obvious to the Court in order to avoid violation to the right of the defendant to have a technical defense.
As personal note, I started my training in the new system in February 2013 by taking a master’s degree in Criminal Procedure in the new accusatory system at a specialized school in Cancun and will graduate in November 2014.
Attorney at Law.