Human Rights and Civil Society

Mexico moves towards unified criminal legislation

Former Mexican Senate. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Former Mexican Senate. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

05/15/13 – Juan Silva Meza, Chief Justice of the Mexican Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN), urged for the creation of unified criminal and procedural codes, meaning single legislation throughout Mexico. During a forum organized by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) on May 14, Silva expressed that there are several discrepancies and contradictions within the 78 penal legislations currently valid nationwide. He argued that the large number of laws in Mexico had caused many of the problems within Mexico’s criminal justice system and has led to its negative perception among civilians, adding that the consolidation of unified legislation would homogenize penalties and would avoid regional political interests.

The unified legislation should establish common penalties for serious crimes, commented Armando Maitret, president of the Mexican Association of Imparters of Justice (Asociación Mexicana de Impartidores de Justicia, AMIJ). The current diversity of legislation has produced different penalties for the same crimes in different regions, and in some cases serious crimes in one state are not considered as such in others. According to Layda Negrete, producer of the film “Presumed Guilty” (Presunto Culpable) and member of the Trans-Border Institute’s Advisory Council at the University of San Diego, the unified legislation would create opportunity for successful implentation of the new criminal justice system.

Accordingly, the Mexican Senate approved the reform to Article 73 of the Mexican Constitution (Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, CPEUM) in late April that would allow for the creation of unified penal legislation throughout the country. Although the reform has not yet been approved by the Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados), the Senate began working on the preliminary version of the new code, which was drafted by several experts and civil society organizations. The Senate explained that it wants to start work on the code’s draft to expedite the process. As the CPEUM mandates, after the Senate approves the constitutional reform, it passes through the Chamber of Deputies, and finally has to be approved by a supermajority of the 32 Mexican state congresses. Therefore, the Senate cannot even proceed to vote on the new code until the reform to Article 73 of the CPEUM is enacted.

The unified legislation has been supported by many experts, policy makers, and civil society organizations, and even Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto included it under the terms of his Pact for Mexico. Although its approval still faces strong opposition from those who support the sovereignty of the states in a federal system, some states have nevertheless recognized the advantages that the implementation of the common legislation would bring. One such advocate, Veracruz Attorney General Felipe Amadeo Flores Espinosa, argues that this would be a new expression of federalism where the harmonization of legislation leads to the establishment of a better justice system.

The Senate expects that once the constitutional reform is enacted, the new code could be ready for implementation by early September 2013.


Robles de la Rosa, Leticia. “Senado aprueba bases para crear Código Único de Procedimientos Penales.” Excélsior. April 30, 2013.

Notimex. “Ven en Código Penal único oportunidad de reforma penal.” El Diario de Yucatán. May 9, 2013.

Martínez Carballo, Nurit. “Demanda president de Corte código penal único.” El Universal. May 14, 2013.

Abundis, Aristeo. “Solicita PGJ en Veracruz código único de procedimientos penales.” Milenio. May 15, 2013.

“Código Procesal Único deberá contemplar penas comunes: AMIJ. Con Oscar M Beteta.” Grúpo Fórmula. May 15, 2013.

Flores, Claudia. “Senado inicia trabajos para el Código Penal único.” Noticieros Televisa. May 15, 2013.

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