How can I be involved in the trial?
If you are civil claimant, subsidiary prosecutor, or private prosecutor, you will be given due notice about the fixed dates of hearings. Otherwise you will just be called to the court when you have to give testimony. As a witness, you are obliged to obey the summons and testify.
If you make use of victim assistance services (4), the organisation providing the service will be informed about the dates of the hearings.
If you were heard during the investigation at a considerate indirect interrogation with participation of the parties (5) you will be informed about the date of the hearing only if you have requested so.
You can obtain other information by inspecting the files. You do not need to be a civil claimant in order to get access. It is possible to duplicate the file against a fee.
Irrespective of whether the trial is public or not, you are allowed to be present and to be accompanied by confidants – a lawyer, a member of a victim support organisation or another qualified person. You have the right to put questions to the defendant, witnesses and experts as well as to be heard regarding your title to compensation.
If you are a civil claimant you may choose not to attend the hearing. If you are private prosecutor and you do not attend the hearing the court will assume that you are no longer interested in a conviction and will close the case.
In cases where you have joined or are willing to join the proceedings as a civil claimant and the public prosecutor decides to close the case after the arraignment is served, you may take over the prosecution as subsidiary prosecutor.
If the court drops the proceedings upon a petition from the offender you as a civil claimant have the right to appeal against the court’s decision. The appeal is heard by the court of appeal. There is a time limit of 14 days.
The court will hold a private hearing if your private affairs or secrets are being discussed or if your identity has to be kept anonymous for safety reasons.
While the court interviews a person with mental disability or illness a confidant has to be present. The judge can also order the offender to leave the courtroom during your interview.
If you do not speak German (or another official language) you have the right to interpretation free of charge. Interpretation will be provided when you are informed about your rights and during the hearings you attend.
Victim assistance services for those who do not speak German include interpretation funded by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The expenses for the necessary journey to court or to the place of the interview will be reimbursed as well as an indemnification for the time spent at court. If you as a witness must stay overnight or have meals outside the place you live the costs will be reimbursed up to a certain limit. There is a deadline of 14 days for filing the request for reimbursement.
What are my rights as a witness?
If you are witness your testimony before the court has to be given in person. However, you can give testimony in the absence of the offender if:
- you are a victim of a deliberate act of violence or dangerous threat; or
- your sexual integrity may have been violated.
You can testify in a separate room in the presence of the judge and a confidant. Your testimony can be followed on a screen in the courtroom via video coverage. If an identity parade is considered necessary or if the confrontation seems to be needed because of contradictory statements, you as a witness cannot refuse to participate.
If you are not able to go to court because of an illness, disability or other considerable obstacles (e.g. you live abroad), you can be interrogated during the trial with use of picture- and sound-programme transmission. You do not have to appear directly before the court.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are under 14 years of age and you could have been hurt by the crime or your sexual integrity could have been violated, you have the right to deny a repeated statement during the trial if you were heard during the investigation at a considerate indirect interrogation with participation of the parties (5). If your sexual integrity may have been violated you have to be interrogated in this way.
A confidant has to be present.
Can I receive legal aid?
If you have the right to victim assistance services (4) you can receive legal aid and representation before the court. The services are provided by lawyers in cooperation with specialised victims’ protection organisations free of charge.
If you do not have access to victim assistance services, you may apply for legal representation free of charge. It has to be granted by the court if the legal representation is necessary (in particular in order to avoid a subsequent civil claim action) and if your income is not enough to pay for the legal representation without endangering subsistence.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
If you need prolonged protection against the person threatening you, you can apply for an interim injunction for the "Protection against violence in apartments” or “General protection against violence" or “Protection against invasion of privacy”. The injunctions are issued by the court and can be enforced by the police. An interim injunction can cover a period from six months up to the termination of the proceedings.
If you are a witness and you are afraid for your or another’s life, health, physical well-being or freedom, you have the right to give your statement anonymously. In this case you are not obliged to give answers that could give a clue as to who you are. You do not have to disclose your name and you are allowed to testify in disguise. Facial expression has to be observable for the judge to estimate credibility of the statement. You can give the testimony during the trial in the absence of the defendant if you are an adult who might have become victim of deliberate acts of violence or dangerous threats or whose sexual integrity could have been violated. In these cases you also have the right to legal and psychosocial victim assistance services (4).
Access to the files may be limited in these cases. All parts of the file that could include a clue as to who you are will be exempted from the other participants’ right of access to the file. Copies of these parts of the file have to be made anonymous. Just those edited parts of the file may be inspected and copied by the other participants.
If you are in danger you could be protected additionally through the special Witness Protection Programme (6) of the Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office.
You can also get specific protection from the media. Television, radio, film and photo equipment is not allowed in courtrooms. If your there is a publication of your name, picture or other facts that make it possible for a larger group of persons to identify you, you are entitled to compensation of up to 20.000 Euro.
How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?
You can claim damages if you file a civil claim and thus join the proceedings as a civil claimant (1). The court may ask an expert to verify the impact of the crime on your health.
If the court convicts the defendant it will also decide on your civil claim. Depending on the evidence collected the court will
- order the offender to pay you the full amount of the requested compensation;
- order the offender to pay you part of the requested compensation; or
- forward the case to a civil court to decide on it (usually when there is no enough evidence supporting the claim or when the examination of the claim would considerably prolong the proceedings).
If the court acquits the defendant it will forward your civil claim to a civil court.
You are entitled to state-provided compensation if you are a victim of violent intentional crime. Please consult the factsheet on compensation to crime victims in Austria (available in English, German and other languages) of the European Judicial Network.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
During the trial the court can work towards a settlement. If you are civil claimant (1) the judge can summon the offender and you to discuss a settlement. The judge can actually come forward with a proposal. Should a settlement be achieved, it has to be recorded in writing and handed over to the offender, the public prosecutor and to you.
The judge has to order an alternative measures to conventional criminal proceedings (7), if:
- the facts of the case are clear enough;
- the case cannot just be closed without a reaction of the authorities; and
- an alternative measure will suffice to prevent the offender from committing crimes in the future.
One of the alternative measures the judge can choose is the Victim-Offender-Mediation. Regularly a qualified mediator of a specialised organisation will be entrusted. You can be involved in the mediation only if you want to. You have the right to be accompanied by a confidant during the Victim-Offender-Mediation. You have to be informed about your rights and victim support organisations as soon as possible.
An alternative measure is excluded in specific cases defined by law.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are foreigner and do not speak German or any other official languages (8), you have the right to interpretation free of charge. Interpretation will be available at least when you are informed about your rights and during all the hearings you take part in. Generally, parts of files will not be translated unless there are special reasons for this.
Victim assistance services (4) include interpretation for your contact with the legal and psychosocial adviser funded by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
If you are living abroad and you are witness, but you are not willing or able to attend the hearing you may be heard in the way of indirect interrogation if the foreign authorities assist.
- Code of Criminal Procedure (Strafprozessordnung) – in German
- Penal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) – in German
- Victim Compensation Act (Verbrechensopfergesetz) – in German
- Youth and Crime Act (Jugendgerichtsgesetz) – in German
The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.