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World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems: Venezuela

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1993
This overview of Venezuela's criminal justice system encompasses political and legal systems, the nature and extent of crime, victims, law enforcement, the prosecutorial and judicial process, the judicial system, penalties and sentencing, the prison system, and extradition and treaties.

Venezuela is a limited democratic federal republic, and the legal system is based on a civil model largely influenced by historical European dominance. The age of criminal responsibility is 18 years. Crimes are classified according to crimes against national security, administration of justice, public order, public trust, preservation of public and private interests, the family and public morals, and civilian property. Crime statistics indicate the crime rate rose from 700 per 100,000 population in 1972 to 1,300 per 100,000 population in 1990. In 1990, 31,861 violent crimes, 184,126 property crimes, and 6,405 drug crimes were reported. Many people are victimized by crime because of fear and the perceived inability of Venezuela's criminal justice system to prevent crime. Victims do not have a role in sentencing unless they initiate the prosecution. The police force is organized according to a quasi-military hierarchy and includes urban police agencies, the National Guard, state police, and municipal and provincial police forces. Police officers are authorized to use force, stop and apprehend suspects, and conduct searches and seizures. The prosecutorial and judicial process is concerned with rights of the accused and procedures for bringing suspects to trial. The judicial system is composed of the Supreme Court, superior courts, trial courts, and special courts. Sentences are determined by trial judges, and possible penalties include fines, restitution, probation, and incarceration. Venezuela's 30 prison facilities are operated by the Ministry of Justice throughout the country, and the prison population is 40 percent over capacity. Venezuela has extradition treaties with most Latin American countries. 32 references

Date Published: June 1, 1993