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A constitutional monarchy, Sweden is one of Europe's largest countries by land mass although it also has one of the lowest population densities. The vast majority of the citizens (85 percent) live in urban areas. The Swedish Parliament, Riksdag, choses the Prime Minister. The king no longer wields significant power and is a figurehead of the state. Sweden is a member of the European Union and incorporated the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Type of System

Sweden has a civil law system based on Romano-Germanic law. Sweden's criminal courts have three levels: The Supreme Court of Sweden (Högsta Domstolen), 6 courts of appeals (hovrätter)and 53 district courts (tingsrätter). The Supreme Court of Sweden has 16 Councillors of Justice. There is no stare decisis in Sweden. Therefore lower courts are not obligated to follow the decisions of the Supreme Court.

Sources of Defendants' Rights

The Constitution of Sweden prohibits capital punishment, [1], corporal punishment [2], and "torture or medical influence aimed at extorting or suppressing statements."[3] Searches and seizures are restricted under Article 6 of the Constitution of Sweden. Additional protections may be found in the Code of Judicial Procedure and the Penal Code.

Defendants' Rights


Police and prosecutors are responsible for conducting investigations to determine whether an individual should be prosecuted for a crime. Prosecution is mandatory if guilt has been established through the investigation period.

A defendant is entitled to counsel as soon as reasonable suspicion is established during the investigation stage. The defense attorney may ask the prosecutor to conduct specific investigations on the defendant's behalf.

Any witness may be interrogated for up to six hours. In some jurisdictions such as Gotenburg, the local municipal council hires lay individuals to attend and document interrogations.

There is no right to bail in Sweden although individuals who are released without detention may have their travel restricted by court order.


Most evidence has already been established during the pre-trial investigatory stage. Hearsay is admissible as long as the evidence is significant to the case[4]. Victim's have the right to merge the criminal case with an action for civil damages. Victim's of serious crimes have the right to special legal representation at the criminal case.[5]. Many cases are resolved by summary disposition. Many defendants are sentenced only to fines.

Both the defendant and the prosecutor have the right to appeal a criminal case. The appeal may include renewed investigation and re-examination of the witnesses by the court of appeals.


See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World


  • As of 2009 there were 7,286 prisoners in Swedish prisons: 24.7 percent were pre-trial detainees.


  1. Constitution of Sweden, Art. 4
  2. Constitution of Sweden, Art. 5
  3. Constitution of Sweden, Art. 5
  4. Richard J. Terrill, World Criminal Justice Systems,342 (2007)
  5. Richard J. Terrill, World Criminal Justice Systems,343 (2007)
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