Costa Rica Legal System

  1. Based on the French Civil code, not the English legal system.
  2. Government of Costa Rica has 4 branches.

    a) Judicial
    b) Executive - President and cabinet ministers
    c) Legislative - Elected members
    d) Electoral Tribunal - takes over police and all government functions dealing with elections before each election. Members are usually unpaid volunteers who are judges. This is to ensure all elections are completely democratic and free.
  3. The government ministers are not chosen from elected members, but are appointed by the president.

LEGAL SYSTEM There are 3 levels of courts.

a) District Courts
b) Appellate Courts
c) Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has 4 chambers.

Commercial and civil law (Sala I)
Administrative and labor law (Sala II)
Criminal law (Sala III)
Constitutional law. (Sala IV)

Challenges of legislation on the grounds of constitutional law are common and often successful.

Criminal Law Complaints

In Costa Rica, while not exactly 'guilty until proven innocent', the system definitely favors the prosecution.  There is no bond system. per se, though the court can allow for a posting of a bond if they so chose.  Here, the prosecutor (fiscal) can request preventative detention (jail) while he or she builds the case against the sinner.  Preventative detentions of 3 months are very common and 6 month detention are not uncommon.  Detentions of 9 and 12 months, though rare occur with regularity in high profile or very complicated cases.


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Page last reviewed/revised: December 30, 2015