Criminal Litigation

Criminal Law in Thailand

There are two law codes in Thailand that govern its criminal law and criminal litigation practice. These are the Criminal Procedure Code and the Thai Penal Code. There are fundamental differences between criminal law systems in Thailand and criminal law systems in Western jurisdictions. Therefore, if you are charged with a crime in Thailand, it is essential to find a Thai criminal trial attorney who is experienced and able to effectively communicate these differences to you.Some examples of serious offenses in Thailand include drug-related crimes, violent crimes, white-collar crimes, fraud, sexual offenses, assault, and large-scale theft. More common offenses are traffic offenses and smaller-scale petty theft.

The most significant differences are as follows:

  • While pleading guilty may be a mitigating factor that can mean a lesser sentence, there is no plea-bargaining or opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge. It also means that you can be sentenced without attorneys ever presenting evidence.
  • Thailand is a civil law jurisdiction and therefore does not have case law on its side as most Western jurisdictions would. Supreme Court decisions are not binding, although they do hold some weight and criminal law is statute-based, which gives a lot of power to judges and does not allow for a jury.
  • Defamation is a serious criminal offense in Thailand and can lead to civil damages claims which will involve civil litigation procedures.
  • Criminal charges can be filed privately.
  • Bail can be applied for but is not often granted.
  • Suspects may legally be held by law enforcement for 48 hours without any charges. If a suspect is in the custody of the court, they can be held for longer.
  • The death penalty is far more common for certain offenses, including offenses related to drugs.
  • Thailand does not have a jury system.

Thailand is a member country of INTERPOL which means that suspects can be subject to INTERPOL notices. Thailand also has various extradition treaties with foreign governments.

Arrest and Detention

A suspect can be arrested by a police officer or an administrative officer upon issuing a warrant. There are certain instances when an arrest can be made without such a warrant:

  • When an alleged offender is about to flee or has fled while on bail.
  • When urgent circumstances are preventing a court application for a warrant.
  • When a person is found under suspicious circumstances showing intention to commit a crime or in possession of an article that can be used to commit a crime.
  • When a person is found in the act of committing a crime.

The 48-hour detainment period begins when the alleged offender arrives at the police station. If this period is not sufficient to complete an investigation, then the alleged offender is to be placed in the custody of the court. This period of detention will be subject to the prescribed penalty for what is being charged:

  • If the criminal offenses warrant a punishment of maximum imprisonment (10-years or more), then several successive detention periods can be granted (no more than 12-days each), with a total period of not more than 84 days.
  • For criminal offenses that warrant a punishment of a fine higher than THB 500, imprisonment less than 10 years but more than six months, or both, several successive detention periods can be granted (not more than 12 days each), with a total of not more than 48 days.
  • For criminal offenses that warrant a fine of less than THB 500, imprisonment of less than six months, or both, only one detention period of no more than seven days is allowed.

Once these maximum periods have been reached, the offended will be released regardless of whether the investigation is complete or not. If a charge was made, but a warrant of arrest was not issued, but the law enforcement officer belies that there are grounds upon which to detain the alleged offender, then that officer can ask the person to appear at the course so that a warrant can be requested. If the person does not comply, then the officer may arrest the person.

Rights of Suspects in Thailand

Suspects in Thailand should have the following rights when detained or arrested in Thailand:

  • The right not to provide a statement - It is strongly advised that you do this until you can be represented by an experienced criminal attorney from a reputable firm who is present in the room with you. Anything that you say as a statement will likely be entered into evidence and will count against you in court. Ideally, you should never be dealing with Thai police without your lawyer present.
  • Suspects have the right to prompt medical treatment if they are unwell.
  • Suspects have the right to reasonable contact with their relatives, including visits.
  • During the investigation stage, a suspect has the right to have a trusted person, preferably a lawyer, present at the interrogation.
  • Suspects may apply for bail, but it is important to remember that bail is very rarely granted, especially if the allegations involve more serious offenses.
  • Suspects also have a right to access a consular representative (as stipulated by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations)
  • Suspects maintain the right to remain silent.

While Thai authorities may inspect your passport as a foreign national, they may not retain it without a court order or warrant as offenses are not related to your right to stay. This is true regardless of the criminal liability you are expected of.

Rights of Defendants in Thailand

A suspect becomes a defendant once the public prosecutor has filed a criminal complaint against them. They are only seen as criminals if they have been found guilty of a wrongful act against Thai society.

  • Defendants have a right to inspect any statement that is provided during the investigation as well as other documents related to the statement.
  • They have a right to inspect and retain copies of court files.
  • They have a right to retain and inspect copies of the evidence submitted.
  • They have a right to privately consult with criminal lawyers.
  • They have a right to have a lawyer during the trial or the preliminary examination.
  • They have a right to a fair and expeditious trial.


Every individual detained in custody has the right to request bail. The bail application should be directed to the investigating officer if the person is under police custody. However, if the individual is held by the court, the application must be submitted directly to the court. Either the detained individual or a representative acting on their behalf may file for bail, providing collateral as part of the application process. It is typical to receive a response to the bail application on the same day it is filed. Common forms of collateral include bank passbooks, cash, or property titles.

For foreign nationals, either a certified copy or the original passport must accompany the bail application. Upon approval of bail, a notification is sent to the Immigration Office to indicate the individual’s requirement to stay within the country. The court may grant permission for international travel in certain cases. While on bail, the individual is allowed to travel throughout Thailand but is obligated to attend court on the scheduled date.

If bail is initially denied by the Court of First Instance, an appeal can be lodged with the Appeals Court. The decision made by the Appeals Court is conclusive, although it is possible to submit a new bail application thereafter.


Either party may appeal within one month of a verdict.

An Appeals Court is not likely to allow additional evidence. It bases findings on the evidence that was submitted during the original trial. Proceedings are not conducted in public, and most of it occurs in writing. A panel of judges is involved, and their identities are not disclosed. This means that neither party ever meets the judges. The average processing time for the Appeals Court is between eight months and two years.

The Appeals Court judgment is placed in a sealed envelope so that it may remain confidential and is returned to the Court of First Instance with the case file. When the envelope is received, a date is scheduled for the reading of the Appeals judgment. While a notice is sent to the prosecutor, no notice is sent to the defense lawyer or the defendant. The defendant is brought to the court on the scheduled date. This means that the defense lawyer is not present at the reading and the defendant then needs to notify their defense lawyer should they wish to take the case further to the Supreme Court.

If there is a need to take the case to the Supreme Court, an Appeal must be made within one month of the reading. The same procedures then apply to the Supreme Court process.


At Juslaws & Consult, we are recognized authorities in both criminal law and criminal procedure within Thailand, having secured numerous victories in a wide array of cases. Our commitment extends to offering comprehensive legal representation across various legal matters. Our seasoned attorneys are prepared to support you, regardless of the nature of the accusations against you. Renowned for our dependability and expertise, we stand as one of the most esteemed law firms in Asia.

If you find yourself confronting a legal challenge, whether civil or criminal, we encourage you to reach out for our support. Juslaws & Consult is dedicated to assisting you through every step of criminal and litigation processes. For additional details, please contact us.