How can I be involved in the trial?
If you are involved in the process as a witness, civil claimant or assistant to the prosecutor, the court will send you a notification about the time and place of the court hearing. If you have missed the opportunity to become an assistant to the prosecutor during the investigation you can still make such a request until five days before the start of the trial.
As an assistant to the prosecutor or civil claimant you can be present during the entire court hearing, even if it is non- public. If you are called for an interview as a witness you can stay in the courtroom only when the hearing is public and after your interview. Before the interview you will be asked to wait outside the courtroom.
Your presence in the courtroom is obligatory only when you are called for an interview as a witness. During the rest of the trial your lawyer can represent you in court.
As an assistant to the prosecutor or civil claimant you can use the assistance of a lawyer. If your income does not allow you to pay for the lawyer’s services you can receive legal aid free of charge. Through your lawyer, you can make introductory remarks, ask questions, make proposals and have a final speech. You can present or ask for the collection of evidence and cross-examine witnesses and experts.
Irrespective of your role in the proceedings you have the right to check the content of the case file and receive certified copies of the documents included in it.
You can ask for reimbursement of the travel costs that you endured to appear before the court.
What are my rights as a witness?
If you are called for an interview as a witness during the trial you have to attend the court hearing and tell the judge what you know about the case. You can refuse to testify only if you are spouse or close relative of the defendant.
If you wish to avoid any contact with the defendant you may ask the judge to allow you to testify without the presence of the defendant.
While waiting to present testimony you will stay at a place reserved only to the witnesses.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are a minor, you can be considered as a particularly vulnerable witness and therefore benefit from a set of measures like assistance by a skilled professional, psychological support, non-public audience, etc.
Can I receive legal aid?
You can receive legal aid free of charge if you want to be represented by a lawyer during the trial but your income does not allow you to pay for his/her services.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
If there is a risk that the offender may threaten you the court may order his/her arrest or apply other restraining measures such as a ban on exercising certain profession or activity, on visiting specific places (e.g. the place where you live), on contacting you or your relatives, etc.
When there is a risk that the publicity of the hearing may harm you, you can ask the court to hold a non-public hearing. Court hearings of cases of human trafficking or sexual violence are always non-public. You can also ask the judge to remove the defendant from the courtroom during your interview if you are afraid that his/her presence may intimidate you.
If you are a witness and there is a danger for your life, health, freedom or property you can benefit from the same special protection measures that are also available during the investigation: interview through videoconference, non-disclosure of your personal data, police protection and/or escort, provision of special equipment, relocation, separate waiting areas, etc. Protection measures may also apply to your relatives or other persons close to you.
Additional witness protection measures are available if you are a child, an elderly or disabled person, or you are dependent on the offender. Such measures are the appointment of a person to accompany you in court, psychological assistance, prevention of repeated interviewing (e.g. use of your testimony given before the police officer so that you do not have to attend the court hearing), interviews via videoconference, etc.
How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?
You can claim damages from the offender in the course of the criminal proceedings if you file a civil claim and thus become civil claimant. The deadline for filing a civil claim is 20 days after a decision to prosecute has been made. In your claim you have to describe the damages you have suffered and enclose all evidence you have (medical certificates, recipes for expenses made, etc.). You can claim both property and moral damages. The judge hearing your case will decide on your claim for compensation.
You can apply for compensation provided by the State if you have suffered from domestic violence or from a violent crime that has prevented you to work for more than 30 days (in sexual crimes this requisite does not apply). Please consult the factsheet on compensation to victims of crime in Portugal (available in English, Portuguese and other languages) on the European Judicial Network website.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
In general, there are no opportunities for mediation during the trial.
For crimes prosecuted upon complaint you can reconcile with the offender at any time during the trial. If you reach agreement you can withdraw the complaint and the case will be closed.
For some crimes against property, the case can be closed if the defendant has returned the stolen good or fully repaired the damage caused.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner you have all the rights explained above as well as some additional rights to facilitate your participation in the trial. If you do not speak Portuguese you can use the assistance of an interpreter during the court hearing free of charge
If you live abroad you can ask your testimony during the investigation to be used as evidence during the trial so that you do not have to appear before the court. In this case your interview during the investigation will be done in the presence of a judge and a second interview during the trial will not be necessary.
- Penal Procedure Code (Código de Processo Penal) – in Portuguese
- Penal Code (Código Penal) – in Portuguese
- Decree-Law No. 34/2008 (Decreto-Lei n.º 34/2008) – in Portuguese
- Law on the implementation of measures for witness protection in criminal proceedings (Lei n.º 93/99 regula a aplicação de medidas para protecção de testemunhas em processo penal) – in Portuguese
- Law on the modification of the regime of access to law and courts (Lei n.º 34/2004 altera o regime de acesso ao direito e aos tribunais) – in Portuguese
- Law on the creation of a system of mediation (Lei n.º 21/2007 cria um regime de mediação penal) – in Portuguese
- Law on the establishment of the legal regime for the prevention of domestic violence and the protection and assistance of victims (Lei n.º 112/2009 estabelece o regime jurídico aplicável à prevenção da violência doméstica, à protecção e à assistência das suas vítimas) – in Portuguese
- Ordinance No. 799/2006 (Portaria n.º 799/2006) – in Portuguese
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