How and where can I report a crime?
You can report a crime to a public prosecutor or to any of the State and local police forces such as State police, Military police, Financial police and Municipal police. Corresponding to the two categories of offences, you can report the crime through:
- a report – for offences that must be prosecuted upon initiative of the public prosecutor (the vast majority of offences), and
- a complaint - for offences (less serious) that may be prosecuted only at your request.
Italian law does not require a specific format for a report or a complaint to be made. The only requirement is that they should include an explicit request that the offence be prosecuted.
You can file your report or complaint either orally (to the public officer who will then fill out the formal report) or in writing, using the general form provided at the police station. You can report a crime in any language. Translation in Italian will be provided by an interpreter appointed by the police or the prosecutor.
Your report or complaint has to provide information on your valid identification document (driving licence, identity card issued by city of residence, passport, etc.) and on the identity of the person who is reporting the crime (if this is not you). The report or complaint will also include the official Protocol Number, date and hour of its filing, basic terms of the reported facts and, when possible, the identity of the alleged offender/s and your signature.
You may exercise the rights of a victim who has died as a result of the offence if you are a:
- close relative (e.g. parent, spouse, sibling, aunt/uncle, nephew/niece)
- foster parent or foster child;
- co-resident partner;
- person who resided with a victim at the time of the offence.
Crimes that must be prosecuted upon the initiative of the public prosecutor can be reported at any time by anyone.
For crimes that may be prosecuted only at your request (less serious offences), the complaint shall be submitted within three months of the day on which you learned of the offence or the day of the special curator (1)’s appointment if you are a minor (or impaired). If this period of time has expired this type of offence cannot be prosecuted. If you are a victim of certain sexual offences such as rape or stalking, you can submit a complaint within six months.
How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?
After reporting a crime to the police you will be given a copy of the report which shall include a Protocol Number (P.N.). Using this P.N. you may simply phone up the police station and ask for more information concerning your report.
Your report to the police, however, shall be transferred to the Prosecution office, for subsequent registration in the Official Registry of the Reported Offences. Separate Official Registries are kept by each prosecution office in major cities. You are entitled to file an application to any of the Official Registries to learn about updates concerning both the registered offence and the identity of the alleged offender.
How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?
You can be involved in the investigation in different ways:
- You can make a statement to the police or the prosecutor either when they call you to answer questions related to the crime or on your own initiative;
- You may give statements to the police, the prosecution or the judge of the preliminary investigation at a pre-trial hearing (2) when it takes place during the proceedings. You also may make a request to the prosecution office for collection of evidence in a pre-trial hearing. However, the prosecutor has no obligation to comply with your request. You will be informed of the date of such pre-trial hearing with two days' advance notice. After receiving the information you are entitled to access part of the case file and the prior statements of the individual to be heard during the pre-trial hearing;
- You have the right to file pleadings to the judge of the preliminary investigation and provide an indication of relevant evidence;
- You also have the right to perform your own investigation, called “defensive investigation” via counsel or private investigator aimed at collecting relevant evidence (statements of informants, documents from public administration, etc.). Such investigations may be used in special proceedings (such as summary proceedings or plea bargaining) as evidence equal to the investigations by the prosecution.
You are not required to prove any aspects of the crime. You may however indicate items of relevant evidence to the court.
During the course of the investigation you have the right to access records from the Official Registry of the Reported Offences and specific acts of investigation that directly concern you, or that are performed on your belongings (searches, seizures, etc.).
You may claim reimbursement of expenses incurred during the pre-trial investigation, only if you join the proceedings as a civil party at the pre-trial hearing or later on.
What are my rights as a witness?
When you are called for an interview as a witness during the investigation you have to appear before the police or the prosecutor so they can establish what you know about the case. You can refuse to testify if you are a close relative of the defendant or if what you say may lead to criminal prosecution against you. You can also refuse to answer questions that may reveal a professional secret entrusted to you.
When testifying during the investigation you can also benefit from a number of protective measures. For instance, your face and voice may not be shown when you are testifying (this is applied especially if you are a minor victim of a sexual offence).
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are under the age of 14 or a mentally ill person, the complaint must be submitted by your parents or by a representative called your caretaker (3), appointed by your parents or by a judge.
If you are under the age of 18 (and above 14) you may file the complaint yourself, although family members retain the right to file it even against your will. When your parents or your caretaker are unavailable the complaint may be filed by a special curator (1).
If you are under the age of 16, you will be heard in a pre-trial hearing, before the judge of the preliminary investigations, in the presence of the prosecutor and defence counsel. Your statements given at the pre-trial hearing (2) count as evidence in subsequent proceedings.
What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?
When reporting a crime or afterwards you can make a request to be duly informed of:
- the prosecution’s decision to close the case;
- the prosecution’s decision to apply for an extension in time of the investigation;
- the name and surname of the suspect and the related offence; and
- what information may not be disclosed or is limited (in the most serious offences such as mafia, terrorism, human trafficking, weapon trafficking, etc.).
In these cases, information is provided through a formal service of notification.
If your name is on file in the Official Registry of Reported Offences you will have the right to receive a postal notice when certain important acts of investigation are performed (such as formal searches and seizures, questioning of the suspect, etc.).
You shall also be informed whenever evidence is collected in the pre-trial hearing (2).
You may also file a request to the Official Registry of the Reported Offences to learn about the actual filing of the report, and the name of the alleged offender. The Prosecutor, however, may withhold that information:
- for a period of no more than three months, if the investigations require secrecy, or
- indefinitely, until the very end of the investigation, for serious offences such as kidnapping for ransom, mafia crimes, terrorism, etc.
Can I receive legal aid?
While right to counsel is always guaranteed, legal aid is provided only in some circumstances. If you are a victim of certain sexual offences, you can receive free legal aid. Otherwise you can receive free legal aid and assistance if your income is low. You have to pass a stringent means test.
You also have the right to be assisted and represented by a counsel (4).
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
If you are in danger, you may be placed under escort by the police. Your face and voice will not be shown when you are testifying especially if you are a minor who has been the victim of a sexual offence.
When there are serious grounds to believe that you could be subject to threat or intimidation, you can be heard in a pre-trial hearing (2).
What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?
If you are a victim of sexual offences, mafia crimes, usury (money-lending with an illegal rate of interest), etc. you have the right to free legal aid and protection through special funds.
You can be assisted in exercising your rights by an organisation authorised to protect the interests of victims of specific crimes.
You can receive medical or psychological assistance but you may be asked to pay for it unless you have a valid health insurance. Citizens of the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can benefit from the European Health Insurance Card.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
There are opportunities to reach conciliation during the investigation stage but only in those cases for which your complaint is a condition for prosecution. Negotiation between you and the offender may lead you to:
- waive your right to bring a compliant;
- withdraw the complaint after its initial filing. Such a withdrawal will prevent the prosecution of the offence but the offender will have to pay the legal costs and expenses made so far unless you and the offender agree otherwise.
In case of offences upon initiative of the prosecution you cannot seek closure of proceedings.
No settlement between you and the offender is possible for offences which are prosecuted upon initiative of a public prosecutor.
How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?
The investigation ends with a decision to close the case or to continue with the prosecution and bring the case to court. The case cannot be closed if there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against the offender. However, the judge of preliminary investigation may close the case if the offence caused only minor damage or constituted only an isolated instance of bad behaviour by the offender. As a victim you can object to such a decision and ask that the case proceeds. Then the judge may not close the case.
Once the decision to bring the case to the court has been made, you will be informed of the date of the trial – 20 days before a trial requiring a preliminary hearing, and 60 days before if a pre-trial hearing is not required.
You are entitled to access the case file in order to make a decision on whether to join the proceedings as a civil party (5).
Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?
In all cases, the decision to close a case is subject to the judicial review of the judge of the preliminary investigation.
You have the right to be informed of the request of the prosecution to close the case, and to appeal against such a request to the judge of the preliminary investigation. This right to information is, however, subject to a specific request previously made by you to the prosecution or the police, either in the complaint/report or in a formal pleading during the investigation.
With regard to the possibility of failures or shortcomings in the investigation by the Prosecution office, you are also given the right to require the direct engagement in the investigation of a Higher Prosecution office, which is the prosecution office which is normally responsible for appellate proceedings.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner or non-native Italian speaker and you have suffered a crime in Italy, you can:
- report the crime in your own language to a public prosecutor or any of the State or local police forces, such as the State Police, the Military Police, the Finance Police, the Municipal Police;
- use the assistance of an interpreter appointed by the police or prosecutor or police officer in charge of receiving a report, at the expenses of the police;
- join the proceedings as a civil party (5) and then you will be entitled to translation; and
- receive interpretation free of charge.
- Italian Constitution (La Costituzione della Repubblica Italiana) – in English and Italian
- Code of Criminal Procedure (Codice di Procedura Penale) - in Italian
- Criminal Code (Codice penale) - in Italian
- Presidential Decree 115/2002 – Consolidated rules and regulation on legal costs (Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica 30 maggio 2002, n. 115, Testo unico delle disposizioni legislative e regolamentari in materia di spese di giustizia) – in Italian
- Decree-Law 11/2009 – Emergency measures concerning public security and the fight against sexual violence as well as on the subject of prosecution (Decreto-legge 23 febbraio 2009, n. 11, Misure urgenti in materia di sicurezza pubblica e di contrasto alla violenza sessuale, nonche' in tema di atti persecutori) – in Italian
- Consolidated Statute for public order and security (Testo unico sulle leggi di pubblica sicurezza)
- Presidential Decree 448/1988 – Adoption of provisions on criminal proceedings against juvenile offenders (Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica 22 settembre 1988, n. 448, Approvazione delle disposizioni sul processo penale a carico di imputati minorenni) – in Italian
- Legislative Decree 274/2000 – Provisions on criminal jurisdiction of justice of the peace under Article 14 of Law 468/1999 (Decreto Legislativo 28 agosto 2000, n. 274 – Disposizioni sulla competenza penale del giudice di pace, a norma dell'articolo 14 della legge 24 novembre 1999, n. 468) – in Italian
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