Statute of Limitations for Crimes in Vietnam

Probably one of the biggest frustrations many Expats will have when living in Vietnam is trying to figure out the Vietnamese legal system.  It seems to be a general consensus that foreigners do  not have any legal rights in Vietnam.  Hence we tend to ask advice from locals and certain Expats without realizing that these persons themselves do not understand the legal system including many lawyers. In fact, if there is a criminal case, dispute, etc., most lawyers will just try to mediate between the two parties instead of actually filing civil cases in the Vietnamese court.

Yet, from speaking with some legal advisers here in Saigon, it turns out that foreigners have filed civil cases in the Vietnamese court system.  Some have won their cases too.  We just do not hear about them since Vietnam, unlike many countries in the West, does not publish its court cases. We only hear about the cases that the Western media decides to focus on.  One of the first questions I asked my legal adviser is whether there was a statute of limitations for crimes in Vietnam.  Most Vietnamese will say it is 6 months but in fact, it ranges from 5 to 20 years depending on the severity of the crime.  See below (I just included Article 23):

Chapter IV

STATUTE OF LIMITATION FOR PENAL LIABILITY EXAMINATION,
PENAL LIABILITY EXEMPTION

Article 23.- Statute of limitation for penal liability examination

1. The statute of limitation for penal liability examination is the time limit prescribed by this Code upon the expiry of which the offender shall not be examined for penal liability.

2. The statute of limitation for penal liability examination is stipulated as follows:

a) Five years for less serious crimes;

b) Ten years for serious crimes;

c) Fifteen years for very serious crimes;

d) Twenty years for particularly serious crimes.

3. The statute of limitation shall begin from the date a crime is committed. If within the time limit prescribed in Clause 2 of this Article, the offender commits a new crime for which this Code stipulates a maximum penalty of over one year, the time already past must not be counted and the statute of limitation for the previous crime shall be re-calculated from the date the new crime is committed.

If within the above-said time limit, the offender deliberately flees and is being hunted for by warrant, the time of fleeing away must not be counted and the statute of limitation shall be re-calculated from such time the person gives him/herself up or is arrested.

Source: http://youbiz.vn/van-ban-phap-luat/vietnam-law-in-english/criminal-law/485-penal-code-1999-in-vietnam.html

Good piece of information…

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