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Italy: Law on Legitimate Defense in Criminal Cases Enters into Force

(June 10, 2019) On May 18, 2019, a new law amending Criminal Code provisions on legitimate defense in criminal cases entered into force in Italy. (Law No. 36 of April 26, 2019, Amending the Criminal Code and Other Provisions on Legitimate Defense) (Law No. 36), GAZZETTA UFFICIALE [G.U., OFFICIAL GAZETTE], May 3, 2019, G.U. website (in Italian); CODICE PENALE [CRIMINAL CODE] (as amended through May 21, 2019), Altalex website.)

The new Law provides that performing an act to repel an intrusion (intrusione) perpetrated through violence, the threat of the use of arms, or other means of physical compulsion by one or more persons is not punishable and can be considered as “legitimate defense” (difesa legittima), thus eliminating criminal responsibility for the suspect. (Law No. 36, art. 1(1)(c) (amending article 52 of the Criminal Code).)

The Law also creates new grounds for legitimate defense by eliminating the penalty for excessive negligence for those who act to protect their own safety or that of others under certain circumstances related to time, place, person, age, or to avoid peril. (Id. art. 2(1) (amending article 55 of the Criminal Code).)

The new Law also includes amendments relating to crime victims’ compensation.  In a conviction for the crimes of theft in a dwelling (furto in abitazione) and theft by “tearing away” or “snatching” (furto con strappo) (CRIMINAL CODE art. 624-bis; see also Dispositivo dell’art. 624 bis Codice penale n.(3), website (last visited June 7, 2018)), the conditional suspension of the penalty for one already serving his/her sentence in prison (parole) is dependant on the full payment of the amount owed to the victim for damage incurred. (Law No. 36, art. 3(1) (amending article 165 of the Criminal Code).) The victim is owed compensation of an amount determined by the court, taking into consideration the gravity and circumstances of the crime. (Id. art. 7(1) (amending article 55, paras. 2–4 of the Criminal Code).)