How and where can I report a crime?
You can report a crime:
- to the police - by post, personally at a police station, or by phone on the European emergency number 112 or on the emergency number of the Bulgarian police 166;
- to a public prosecutor – by post or personally before the prosecutor on duty in the nearest prosecutor’s office.
You may submit your report orally and sign the minutes the police or prosecutor will prepare. You may also submit a report in writing: no special form is required but you must sign the report. You can make your report in any language and should include relevant personal details. Anonymous reports are not prohibited, but cannot oblige the authorities to act.
You have the right to be received by the police in a specially designated area and be treated with respect, taking into account your sex, age and the crime you have suffered from. You will be referred to institutions or organisations offering aid to victims of crime. You can be assisted by an interpreter free of charge if you do not speak Bulgarian or have hearing or speaking impairments. To submit a crime report you can, but are not obliged to, use a lawyer at your own expense.
There is no specific deadline for reporting a crime, except for the period after which public prosecution cannot be initiated. This period may vary from three to twenty years, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
After receiving your report, the authorities will assess the available information and if there is reasonable suspicion of a crime they will start proceedings. If the prosecutor refuses to do so, you will be notified. You can appeal the refusal before the superior prosecutor. The notification will indicate where you can submit your appeal.
How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?
After reporting a crime, you may request and receive the registration number given to your report and the name and contact details of the officer in charge of it. Using the registration number you can contact the police officer in charge of your case to receive information about the progress of the investigation.
How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?
If you want to take part in the investigation or obtain information, you need to make a request to the police or the prosecutor and provide an address in Bulgaria, even if you are a foreigner - your own, that of your lawyer or a friend/relative – notifying the authorities in case of any change. You can, but are not obliged to, use a lawyer, generally at your own expense.
You are not required to prove any aspects of the crime.
If you do not speak Bulgarian you have the right to an interpreter free of charge in your personal contacts with the authorities. You have the right to be informed about the progress of the case and about your right (as a victim or heir to a victim) to ask the court to freeze the offender’s property, if you intend to file a civil claim once the case goes to trial.
You can be present at investigative actions, if that would not hamper the investigation and if the police or the prosecutor so permits. If the police refuse to let you be present, you can appeal before the prosecutor. If he/she upholds the refusal, you can appeal to his/her superior.
On your request, you can personally examine the case file after the investigation is completed with the help of an interpreter free of charge, if needed. The police will present the file and explain the rights you have. If you cannot study the materials yourself, the police officer will clarify and read them to you. You can make requests, remarks and objections.
In some cases, e.g. when the offender has been caught at the scene of the crime, the police may undertake an accelerated investigation in which you will not be allowed to participate.
What are my rights as a witness?
If you are summoned to be interviewed as a witness, you have to attend before the police or the prosecutor. You have additional rights, related to your testimony:
- to use written notes;
- to be assisted by an interpreter free of charge, if needed;
- to be accompanied by a lawyer, generally at your own expense;
- to be interviewed at your location, if you cannot go to the police or the prosecutor’s office due to illness or disability;
- to be interviewed through a videoconference or a telephone conference, if you are outside Bulgaria;
- not to reply to questions, which may imply that you, your relatives, siblings, spouse or co-habitant may have committed a crime;
- to request revocation of acts that impact on your rights;
- to be reimbursed for the working day(s) off and the expenses incurred.
You will be warned in advance that you should not refuse to be interviewed, give false testimony or hide details. You are expected to tell conscientiously and accurately everything you know about the case.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are under 18 years of age, you have the right:
- to be interviewed in a suitable environment in the presence of a person of teaching background or a psychologist and your parents or guardians;
- to be interviewed via videoconference even if you reside in Bulgaria;
- to always benefit from legal aid free of charge in all proceedings affecting your rights and interests.
If your interests are in conflict with those of your parent, guardian or custodian (e.g. if he/she has previously harmed or otherwise acted against your interests), the prosecutor will appoint a lawyer free of charge to represent you.
What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?
If you are a victim (or heir/relative of a victim) of certain crimes (1), you have the right to be informed by police and victim support organisations, in writing or orally, in a language you understand, about:
- how and where you can report a crime and what follows;
- how and where you can obtain counselling, support and legal aid free of charge;
- how and where you can receive protection for you and your relatives and financial compensation;
- how to protect your rights and interests, if you are a foreigner or if you have been victimised abroad.
A permanent toll-free victims telephone line will be operational soon. If you are a child, or a child around you is being victimised, you can call free of charge the 24-hour hotline for children in need 116 111, where consultants can accept a report in Bulgarian or English.
Can I receive legal aid?
You have the right to free legal aid only if you are a victim (or heir/relative of a victim) of certain crimes (1). You have to make a request to the prosecutor or the police officer investigating the case. In such cases, legal aid is given to you free of charge, if you present evidence that you cannot pay for it.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
You, or the public prosecutor with your consent, can ask the court to ban the offender from approaching you. The court’s decision cannot be appealed. The ban applies until the end of proceedings, but you can request its lifting at any time.
If you are a witness and your evidence might endanger you or your relatives, upon your request or with your consent the prosecutor or the court can place you under temporary witness protection measures:
- Personal physical protection by the police for you and/or your parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren, siblings, spouse or persons in particularly close relations with you;
- Keeping your identity a secret by replacing your personal data with an identification number and allowing direct access to you only to the police, the prosecutor and the court.
If you are a witness in proceedings for specific crimes (crimes against the person; arson; explosion; drug-related crimes; organized crime; etc.) and you cannot be protected with the above measures, you can also enter a special protection programme (2).
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can turn to the regional court at your place of residence to impose a protection measure under the domestic violence legislation. This is not part of the criminal proceedings.
What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?
You can receive medical help from medical institutions if you have valid health insurance. Citizens of the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can benefit from the European Health Insurance Card. You can call the emergency units of hospitals at the European emergency number 112.
If you are a victim (or heir of a victim) of certain crimes (1), you may receive free psychological support by the Nadja Centre and the Foundation for Assisting Victims of Crime and Combating Corruption, if you submit a written request.
If you are a victim of human trafficking, you have additional rights, such as:
- to use shelters and assistance centres;
- to receive support and assistance from diplomatic and consular officials abroad;
- to get special protection (e.g. prolongation of your accommodation in a shelter, issuance of long-term residence permit), etc.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
Bulgarian legislation does not provide for mediation in criminal proceedings. However, your case may end up with an ‘agreement’ between the prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer, prepared after the closing of the investigation and approved by court. Agreement can be reached in proceedings for many types of crime, except for some serious crimes against the person, such as murder and sexual crimes. It states whether a crime has been committed and what the penalty should be. The court will notify you if an agreement has been approved.
An agreement cannot be concluded if your property damages from the crime have not been covered or secured. When approved by court, the agreement is equal to a sentence having entered into force and can thus significantly decrease the length of the proceedings.
How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?
After the end of the investigation, the prosecutor will:
- close or suspend the case, if the act committed is not a crime, the involvement of the offender has not been proven, the identity of the offender has not been discovered, a very important eyewitness cannot be interviewed, etc.; or
- bring the case to court.
Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?
When the prosecutor closes or suspends the case on any of the grounds mentioned, you, as a victim or an heir to a victim, will receive a copy of this decision and can appeal to the court within seven days. You can further appeal the court’s decision within seven days before the higher court, but only if the case was closed definitively (not suspended temporarily). In all other cases you cannot appeal against the court’s decision. For the appeal procedures, you can, but are not obliged to, have a lawyer, generally at your own expense.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner and you have suffered from a crime in Bulgaria you have all the rights described above. Specifically, you can:
- submit a crime report in your own language;
- use the assistance of an interpreter free of charge, if you do not speak Bulgarian;
- take part in the investigation and obtain information, if you provide an address in Bulgaria;
- receive additional information about your entitlements as a foreign citizen from police and victim support organisations in a language you understand, if you are a victim of certain crimes (1);
- be interviewed outside Bulgaria through a videoconference or a telephone conference;
- consult a brochure on victims’ rights available in English, German and French;
- benefit from free legal aid if you are a victim of certain crimes (1); you need to make a request to the prosecutor or the police officer investigating the case and present evidence that you cannot pay for it;
- submit documents to Bulgarian authorities in a foreign language, accompanied by a duly certified Bulgarian translation;
- be issued a long term residence permit, if you are a victim of human trafficking.
- Criminal Procedure Code (Наказателно-процесуален кодекс) – in Bulgarian
- Law on Assistance and Compensation to Victims of Crime (Закон за подпомагане и финансова компенсация на пострадали от престъпления) – in Bulgarian and English
- Law on Health (Закон за здравето) – in Bulgarian
- Instruction No Iз-507 on Receiving Citizens and Supporting Victims of Crime (Инструкция № Iз-507 на МВР от 26 март 2008 г. за осъществяване на прием на граждани и подкрепа на жертви на престъпления в структурните звена на национална служба “Полиция”) – in Bulgarian
- Law on Legal Aid (Закон за правната помощ) – in Bulgarian
- Law on Protection of Persons in Criminal Procedure (Закон за защита на лица, застрашени във връзка с наказателно производство) – in Bulgarian
- Law on Protection against Domestic Violence (Закон за защита от домашното насилие) – in Bulgarian
- Law on Combating Human Trafficking (Закон за борба с трафика на хора) – in Bulgarian
- Law on Child Protection (Закон за закрила на детето) – in Bulgarian
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