How can I be involved in the trial?
If you have missed the opportunity to ask to be formally recognised as a victim during the investigation, you can ask the court make this formal recognition during the trial. Your request must be made before the court starts to examine the evidence.
As a victim you have the following rights during the trial:
- to receive information (by registered mail) about the time and place of the court hearing;
- to receive information about the other participants in the trial (judge, public prosecutor, experts, etc.) and request their removal (e.g. if you believe they will not be objective and impartial);
- to be present during the court hearings and express your opinion on the issues discussed, including the penalty to be imposed on the offender;
- to ask questions of the witnesses and the experts and make comments on the evidence;
- to check the documents in the case file and make copies;
- to audiotape or videotape the court hearing with the permission of the judge and the other participants in the trial;
- to check the court decisions and the transcripts of the hearings.
You can receive information about the trial online through the Latvian Judicial Portal. You do not need special registration or authorisation but to receive information you have to insert the number of your case.
As a victim, your presence in the courtroom is not obligatory. If you cannot attend the hearing due to justified reasons (e.g. illness) you can ask the court to postpone it. In certain cases the court may also request your presence if it is important for the outcome of the case.
During the trial you can authorise any person above 18 years of age to represent you. You can also use the assistance of a lawyer. You can choose a lawyer from the online database of lawyers, which offers a full list of lawyers and their contact details. The lawyer’s services will be free of charge if you qualify for legal aid.
You can make a request to the court to reimburse you for the expenses related to your participation in the trial. There is no deadline for claiming reimbursement. You can request reimbursement for:
- travel expenses: public transport or personal vehicle excluding taxi;
- accommodation: up to 30 Lats (approximately 42 euro) per night in Riga and up to 20 Lats (approximately 28 euro) per night in another place;
- compensation for lost remuneration;
- other related expenses.
What are my rights as a witness?
If you are called for an interview as a witness you will receive information about the criminal proceedings for which you will be interviewed and about your rights and duties as a witness.
As a witness you can:
- make notes and additions to the record or request to write your statement by hand in a language that you understand;
- refuse to testify yourself or against your close relatives;
- have a lawyer.
You are obliged not to disclose any information about the case you have learned during your interview.
If you are formally recognised as a victim and are interviewed in the course of the trial as a witness, you will benefit from all rights of a victim.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are child under 18 years of age you will be represented during the trial by:
- your parents or guardian;
- your grandparents or your elder brother or sister (provided they are above 18 years of age) if you have lived with them and they have been taking care of you;
- a representative of a governmental agency or non-governmental organisation (e.g. when you do not have other relatives);
- a lawyer assigned by the court if the judge believes that the other persons mentioned above would not adequately protect your interests.
Can I receive legal aid?
You can receive legal aid free of charge if you want to have a lawyer but because of your low income, specific status (e.g. person in need) or other exceptional circumstances (e.g. natural disaster) you cannot pay for the services of a lawyer.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
You can get additional protection if you are a victim or a witness and you are afraid that your testimony may put you or a person close to you in danger. If you have been placed under additional protection measures during the investigation these measures will continue to apply during the trial. If you have missed this opportunity you can ask the court to place you under special protection during the trial. The judge will examine your request and will decide what type of protection would be most appropriate for you.
The protection measures during the trial are the same as during the investigation and may include:
- personal protection;
- measures ensuring that your communications are not wire-tapped and your correspondence is not opened;
- relocation to a secret place, including relocation abroad;
- issuance of personal documents (e.g. passport) with another identity;
- change of permanent residence or place of work;
- non-disclosure of your personal data available in publicly accessible information systems;
- insurance of personal property.
If you have been placed under additional protection your identity will be kept secret and your name will be replaced by a pseudonym in all documents related to the case. You can stay out of the courtroom and participate in the hearing through audio or videoconference.
Usually when a person placed under protection is involved in the case the court hearings are non-public. If necessary, you will be interviewed in a separate room and the interview will be broadcasted in the courtroom in a way that does not reveal your identity. You can refuse to answer questions that may reveal your identity. You can even refuse to be interviewed at all, in which case the judge will read in the courtroom the record of your interview during the investigation. You can participate in the hearing through audio conference or videoconference so that you do not need to be present in the courtroom.
How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?
You can claim financial compensation from the offender if the crime has caused you physical injury, psychological suffering or financial loss. You can submit your claim during the investigation or during the trial before the court starts examining the evidence. The claim should include a justification of the requested amount. You can submit your claim orally or in writing.
You can withdraw your claim at any time before the court starts discussing the final judgment. The withdrawal of your claim will not affect the rest of the proceedings.
If you are not satisfied with the amount of the compensation awarded by the court you can submit another claim before a civil court. When deciding on your claim the civil court will take into account the amount awarded to you during the criminal proceedings.
If you have suffered from a violent crime you can apply for financial compensation from the State. Please consult the factsheet on compensation to victims of crime in Latvia (available in English, Latvian and other languages) of the European Judicial Network.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
You can reconcile with the offender at any time before the court starts discussing the final judgement. You have to notify the judge about the conciliation you have reached. The notification can be oral or in writing. The court will take into account your conciliation and, depending on how serious the crime was, may close the case without convicting and sentencing the offender or impose a lighter penalty.
During the trial there are limited opportunities to start a mediation procedure. The State Probation Service has temporarily (until 31 December 2012) stopped providing mediation services at this stage of the proceedings but mediation can still be carried out with the involvement of NGOs.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner you can benefit from all the rights described above. You also have some additional rights to facilitate your participation in the trial.
If you do not speak Latvian you can use any language you understand. The court will provide you with an interpreter free of charge.
If a document is issued in the course of the investigation, which directly concerns you, it will also be translated, free of charge. In practice, documents are usually translated orally.
You can receive legal aid free of charge if you are citizen of the European Union, you legally reside on the territory of Latvia and you cannot pay for the services of a lawyer.
- Criminal Procedure Law (Kriminālprocesa likums) – in English and Latvian
- Rules of Criminal Procedure Reimbursement Arrangements and the Extent (Noteikumi par kriminālprocesuālo izdevumu atlīdzināšanas kārtību un apmēru) – in Latvian
- Special Persons Protection Law (Personu speciālās aizsardzības likums) – in English and Latvian
- State Ensured Legal Aid Law (Valsts nodrošinātās juridiskās palīdzības likums) – in English and Latvian
- Law on State Compensation to Victims (Likums par valsts kompensāciju cietušajiem) – English and Latvian
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