Foreigners Before the Dominican Justice System

While each day of scarcer application, the obligation still remains valid that foreigners who do not possess real estate in the country are obliged to post bail to be determined by the judge before starting court proceedings against a Dominican citizen. This guarantee does not apply to criminal or labor matters.

The Dominican Penal Code establishes three types of infractions: misdemeanors, felonies, and crimes, depending on the seriousness of the infractions, which are penalized differently.

Dominican courts have the jurisdiction over foreign individuals who commit infractions within Dominican territory, even when the author and or victim are foreigners.

Foreign individuals that engage in certain illegal activities in the Dominican Republic may be arrested and deported to their country of origin.

When foreigners are deemed to have become a public nuisance, within five years following their entry to the country, the immigration inspectors are in charge of investigating these cases and obtaining the corresponding arrest warrant and potentially, deportation may apply. Foreigners may not be deported without having the possibility of defending themselves from the charges of which they are being accused.

Extradition is regulated by the Dominican Constitution, and the provisions contained in treaties and international conventions signed and approved by the Dominican Government. In the absence of treaties, the Dominican laws provide that extradition may be granted by the country, on the basis of the principle of reciprocity between the countries involved.

The Dominican Republic has signed extradition treaties with the United States of America and Spain. The country also is a signatory to the International Extradition Convention of 1981.

Access to justice and the right to ask a Dominican court to defend an individual is recognized both to Dominican citizens as well as to foreign individuals and entities, without regard to their country of origin.

By virtue of the principle of contractual freedom, any foreign legislation may be chosen as the applicable law to any contract, so long as it does not contradict public order laws, as they cannot be waived or amended by private contracts.

Private documents issued or executed abroad, to be admissible in a local court or before any governmental agency, must be notarized and authenticated by the corresponding agencies in their country of origin and in the Dominican Republic.  In addition, documents that are not in Spanish must be translated by an official translator or a similar officer in the country of origin.

For public documents executed in countries that are parties to the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961, the simple submission properly annotated according to the terms of the Apostille Convention is enough to make valid in the Dominican Republic.

Beginning in 2008 with the enactment of the Commercial Arbitration Act, this alternative method of dispute resolution has experienced an unexpected boom, to the point that now the Chambers of Commerce in Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros and have fully functioning arbitration tribunals able to render enforceable awards across the country without requiring the intervention of the national courts.
The advantages of arbitration are not only evident in time and price, but provide a degree of specialization often standard for foreign litigants, but that the judicial courts not necessarily have.
It is worth mentioning that in October 2001, the Dominican Republic became a member of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention). It is also part of the Interamerican International Commercial Arbitration (Panama Convention). Therefore, the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards must be ordered by a local court, based on the provisions of international conventions and local laws on the subject.

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