The Lithuanian Justice Ministry unveiled Thursday its proposal to decriminalise less serious economic, financial and property crimes, making them subject only to administrative liability.
The country's legal system now has "excessive criminalization" and its criminal law contains many "dead norms" that do not work or are misapplied, and often overlap with administrative law or criminalise civil relations, says Aurelijus Gutauskas, the head of the Criminal Division at the Lithuanian Supreme Court.
Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius says the amendments would speed up processes involving crimes that cause major damage, and help reduce the number of prisoners.
"Since the very adoption of the Criminal Code in 2000, [Lithuania's] criminal policy has been on the tightening path," Jankevičius said at a news conference. "A relatively large number of minor offences for which criminal liability is not necessary, ineffective and economically inappropriate have been since criminalised."
The ministry has drafted amendments to the Criminal Code that would also exclude prison sentences for offenses causing minor damage, and has also proposed increase the threshold when a crime may be punishable by imprisonment.
According to Simona Mesonienė, the head of the ministry's Criminal Justice Group, the threshold for theft, fraud or misappropriation of property would be raised to 250 euros, from the current 150 euros.
The threshold from which an actual custodial sentence could be imposed would be increased to 500 euros, from the current 250 euros. If the damage does not exceed 500 euros, it would be considered a criminal offense punishable by a fine.
For financial and economic crimes, such as tax evasion, fraudulent accounting, provision of inaccurate data on income, or failure to file a tax return, the threshold for triggering criminal liability would be raised to 7,500 euros, from the current 5,000 euros.
According to Jankevicius, the ministry does not propose milder responsibility for corruption, violent or drug-related crimes.
The ministry's initiatives have been supported by the Prosecutor General's Office and some judges. Jankevičius expects the draft amendments to the Criminal Code to be discussed by the Cabinet by the end of the year before going to the parliament for approval.