The introduction of criminal sanctions aims to maintain social order, protect citizens from potential threats, and punish offenders.However, the criminal policy of modern society is not only focused on punishment but also on the resocialization of convicts and their reintegration into society as equal members. In Croatian criminal law, the adaptation of the sentences is a key component of this process.


Suspended Sentence

A suspended sentence is a security measure (formerly referred to as a warning measure) that is not defined as a punishment but rather a punishment modification. In Croatian legal practice, a suspended sentence is mostly imposed in up to 80% of cases, exclusively for offenders sentenced to a prison term of up to 1 year or a monetary fine if the court deems that the offender will not commit further criminal offenses even without serving the sentence. The fundamental assumption is the length of the imposed, rather than prescribed, penalty. This practically means that a suspended sentence can be imposed even for multiple offenses if a unified prison sentence does not exceed 1 year. Fines are more frequently conditioned in practice than prison sentences.

The purpose of a suspended sentence is to allow the convict to avoid serving a prison sentence or paying a fine under certain conditions. The main condition is that there is a certain probability that the convict will not commit a new criminal offense during the probation period. From this, it follows that it is difficult to justify a suspended sentence for repeat offenders and recidivists. The court evaluates this probability in practice based on the convict’s personality, which arises from psychiatric expertise, their previous life, especially whether they were previously convicted, family circumstances, the circumstances of the commission of the criminal offense itself, and his behavior after the offense, especially the convict’s attitude towards the victim and efforts to compensate the damage.

The probation period cannot be shorter than one year or longer than five years, and it starts running from the day the judgment becomes final. The probation period is a reason for the suspension of the statute of limitations for the execution of the penalty. The court may impose one or more specific obligations on the convict independently or cumulatively with protective supervision or the obligation imposed by a security measure. The imposed protective supervision or security measure must not be set for a longer period than the duration of the probation period. Such a dual condition is considered to further contribute to the resocialization of the convict.

The main purpose of a suspended sentence is to encourage the convict to refrain from committing further criminal offenses and facilitate their resocialization. However, since the emphasis is on special prevention and forecasting the convict’s future behavior, it can prove to be wrong over time, in which case the suspended sentence is revoked.

Mandatory revocation comes into effect if the court sentences the convict to imprisonment for one or more (new) criminal offenses committed during the probation period, with a sentence longer than 1 year. In such cases, the sentence from the suspended sentence that is revoked is taken as established, and the sentence imposed by the court for the new criminal offense for which proceedings are ongoing is determined, and the convict is sentenced to a single prison sentence following the rules of concurrency. On the other hand, the suspended sentence will be revoked if the convict, without a valid reason, does not return the property benefit gained through the commission of a criminal offense within the time frame specified in the judgment.

Optional revocation may occur, for example, if the convict, without a valid reason, violates the obligation arising from specific obligations, protective supervision, or a security measure, or violates them severely or persistently, or persistently avoids the implementation of protective supervision, etc. The revocation of a suspended sentence due to a breach of these obligations falls under the jurisdiction of a non-judicial panel.


Partial Suspended Sentence

A partial suspended sentence is a variation of a suspended sentence applied when the convict is sentenced to a prison term exceeding one year but less than three years. In this case, the convict is directed to serve a partial term of the sentence if the court deems there is a high probability that, even without serving the entire sentence, they will not commit further criminal offenses. In the case of a partial suspended sentence, the court’s prognosis is stricter compared to a suspended sentence because it requires a “high probability” that the convict will not commit further crimes in the future. This is an anticipated parole, depending on which part of the sentence will sufficiently influence the convict to no longer commit criminal offenses. Specific limitations are prescribed. Namely, the unsuspended part of the prison sentence must be at least six months and at most half of the imposed prison sentence, while the unsuspended part of the fine cannot be less than one-fifth or more than half of the imposed fine. The provisions on parole cannot be applied to the unsuspended part of the prison sentence, so the convict must serve that part of the sentence. Likewise, in the case of partial parole, there is no possibility of substitution with community service.



The parole system in the Croatian legal system plays an important role in the execution of criminal sanctions and the resocialization of convicts. The parole decision has a significant impact on the life and future of prisoners, which is why the legislator pays great attention to regulating this institute.

Parole is a procedure by which a convict can be released from prison before serving their full prison sentence. Parole is applied under the framework of the Execution of Criminal Sanctions Act (ECSA) and does not fall under the concept of serving a sentence but rather pertains to how the sentence is served. Preconditions for parole include that the convict has served at least half of the sentence but no less than three months. Furthermore, the convict must demonstrate that they can reintegrate into society and are not inclined to re-offend, as there is a reasonable expectation that they will not commit a new criminal offense. The convict must agree to parole, especially in cases where they do not apply themselves, such consent must be obtained.

A proposal for parole can be submitted by the prisoners themselves, their legal representative, a family member, the state attorney, and the prison warden. The court decides on the proposal, and its decision depends on the convict’s behavior during the sentence, their personality, previous life and convictions, whether there is another ongoing criminal procedure against them, their attitude towards the committed offense, and the victim, behavior during the prison sentence, the success of the implementation of the prison sentence execution program, whether there has been a change in their behavior after committing the criminal offense, or it is expected that such changes will occur through the application of supervision measures during parole, as well as the convict’s life circumstances and their willingness to reintegrate into free society. The convict may also be subject to special conditions, such as avoiding certain locations or encounters with specific individuals.

Amendments to Croatian legislation, including the new ECSA, which came into effect in February 2021, have brought about certain changes in the parole process and the rights of convicts. While many provisions remain similar or nearly identical compared to previous laws, changes in legislation often provoke various reactions and controversies.

The adaptation of penalties in Croatian criminal law emphasizes the importance of an individual approach to each case and the desire for the resocialization of convicts. These procedures and rules ensure that penalties are proportionate to the committed offenses and that convicts are given an opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration into society as responsible citizens. Penalty adaptation is not just a mechanism of punishment but also a tool for shaping a more positive society. Through the application of suspended sentences, partially suspended sentences, and parole, the Croatian criminal justice system aims to strike a balance between punishment and resocialization to provide convicts with a second chance for correction and a return to the right path. The parole system plays a crucial role in the execution of criminal sanctions and the resocialization of convicts; therefore, it is essential to ensure a fair and transparent process that respects the rights of convicts and other participants in the proceedings. Continuous monitoring and revision of legislation in this area are critical to ensuring that the parole system achieves its goal of rehabilitating and resocializing convicts.


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