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John Cowan

"Court of first instance" is a general term in jurisprudence, meaning the court that first deals with a particular case. In England-and-Wales they are either Crown courts or magistrate's courts, most often the latter. When technicalities are not at issue, "Supreme Court" is a fine translation for "Court of Cassation"; the technical difference is that in principle the U.S. and U.K. Supreme Courts can re-examine the facts as well as the law (but rarely do), whereas European courts of cassation cannot. (Calling Spanish law "Roman law" rather than "civil law" is a bit like calling American law "English law" rather than "common law": historically true, but somewhat misleading.) Anyway, IANAL either.

When my wife was a teenager in the mid-1950s, her favorite disk jockey suddenly disappeared from his regular program, never to return. About a month later she saw in the newspaper that he had been convicted of "crimes against nature". She had never heard the expression, and supposed that he had taken an ax to a tree in a national park, or something of the sort.

Peter Harvey

The Spanish imputado status is similar to Portuguese arguido, which is described in Wikipedia:

f a person becomes an arguido, they automatically gain certain rights that a witness or suspect would not have.[6] An arguido has the right to be accompanied by a lawyer when questioned.[4] The investigating police may ask the arguido more direct accusatory questions (the answers to which would not be admissible in court if possibly self-incriminatory and asked of a non-arguido) but the arguido must be presented with whatever evidence is held against them,[6] and unlike a witness has the right to remain silent,[7] not to answer any question that may incriminate the person, and does not face legal action for lying.[8]

Witnesses in criminal investigations are legally bound to co-operate with the police and do not have the right to silence and face legal actions if they lie.[6][8] Because of the legal advantages, some individuals apply for arguido status to be given to themselves, e.g. when it would appear that the police suspect them but are trying to use their witness status to extract as much information as possible.[6]

A person who has arguido status has not been formally accused of a crime, arrested or charged,[9] and not all arguidos are subsequently charged.[1] The police may ask a court to restrict an arguido's movement and oblige them to not leave the country.[1] Arguidos cannot change their place of residence, without permission from a court.[9] There is no time limit on the status.[10]
Comparison with common-law administrations

The status is very similar to that of being "questioned under caution" under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in the United Kingdom or being questioned after being read one's "Miranda Rights" in the USA, specifically the right to legal representation, the liberty to refuse to answer questions, and the admissibility in court of statements taken whilst in those statuses.[11]"

Hat-tip Jacquie Minett.

Peter Harvey

John, It's not quite that simple. The French Court of Cassation is not the only Supreme Court as it only handles civil and criminal matters:

"The Court is the court of final appeal for civil and criminal matters. As a judicial court, it does not hear cases involving claims against administrators or public bodies which generally fall within the purview of administrative courts, for which the Council of State acts as the supreme court of appeal. Nor does the Court adjudicate constitutional issues; instead, constitutional review lies solely with the Constitutional Council. Thus, France does not have one senior adjudicatory body but four (including the Jurisdictional Disputes Tribunal), and collectively, these four courts form the topmost tier of the court system."

Although I know about civil law versus common law, civil law is also different from criminal law as in this Wikipedia example, so I said Roman Law to be clear. Maybe that isn't quite right but ...

Several countries including France Belgium and the EU have courts that are actually called Court of First Instance in English, though the ECJ now calls it the General Court.

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