Most people are completely unfamiliar with the concepts associated with legal proceedings. While many can guess what "accuser" and "defendant" mean, the average Russian is hardly aware of the existence of public defenders. Who are these people, and what functions do they perform in the course of legal proceedings?
Public Defender: Functions and Definitions
It should be noted right away that the concept of "public defender" does not exist in Russian legislation - this term is rather an echo of the USSR, therefore, in the Russian mind, a public defender is understood as the second defender in the legal proceedings, in addition to the lawyer (the main defender).
Nevertheless, in the Russian Criminal Procedure Code there is a concept of "defender", which may include the functions of the very "public defender" - a person whose admission to trial is requested by the accused himself.
The role of public defenders is most often played by family members, less often by members of trade unions or organizations in which the accused may have worked, sometimes by members of labor collegia.
In essence, the public defender is a copy of a lawyer with limited functions. A public defender is often understood as a person who is not connected with the system, and he, unlike a lawyer, has the right to refuse to defend the accused.
The participation of a public defender in court proceedings began in the USSR - then the presence of such defenders was supposed to expand the scope of the trial and bring a bit of democracy to the court.
Freedom of action and the real position of the public defender in the judicial system
The public defender has the right to present and study evidence, examine documents, file petitions and challenges before the court, and participate in debates. The public defender has the right to influence the judge, providing grounds for sentencing the defendant conditionally, postponing the execution of the sentence or releasing him from punishment and transferring him to the care of the organization on behalf of which he himself acts.
The authors of the current Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation have done everything possible to "obscure" the question of exactly at what stage of the trial the legal activity of a public defender can begin.
According to article 49 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, a public defender cannot enter into the process of judicial inquiry (preliminary investigation) - this is one of the main restrictions on the freedom of action of public defenders.
Judicial practice shows that it is not at all necessary for a court to allow a public defender if a lawyer is already involved in the process. And numerous refusals to requests to provide a public defender often have absolutely no basis at all.
Of course, the system, especially in cases of political criminals or murderers, is not profitable to involve an independent party, which can only complicate the process of legal proceedings.