How and where can I report a crime?
If you are a victim of crime you or your lawyer can report it to the following agencies:
- Public Prosecution Service;
- Republican National Guard;
- Public Security Police;
- Judicial Police;
- Foreigners and Borders Service.
You can also report the crime when the victim has died and you are his/her:
- spouse or partner (including of the same sex);
- child (including adopted child);
- parent (including adoptive parent);
- brother, sister or their children.
If you choose to report to the Public Prosecution Service, you have to file a written report. In all other cases you can report the crime orally or in writing without any specific formalities.
For some offences like assault, domestic violence, theft, robbery, trafficking in human beings, etc. you can also submit your report electronically through the Electronic Complaints Portal.
For most crimes there is no deadline for reporting. There are some less serious offences (like libel or slander), which can be prosecuted only if the victim files a complaint within six months after the offence has occurred or been detected..
When you report a crime or submit a complaint you have to present as much information as possible to facilitate the investigation. Such information includes data about you (name, date of birth, ID card number, address, phone number) and the alleged offender, description of the incident (including date, time and place), and name and contact details (addresses and phone numbers) of witnesses if any.
How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?
When you report a crime or file a complaint you will receive a reference number, which you can use to follow the progress of your case.
You can check how the investigation is proceeding by asking the public prosecutor or the police officer in charge of your case, unless the investigation is confidential.
How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?
The public prosecutor and the police are responsible for the collection of evidence and they may ask you for additional information.
A lawyer can accompany you each time you have to appear before the public prosecutor or the police. Legal assistance will be free of charge if you cannot pay the fee for the lawyer’s services. You can also ask for reimbursement of the travel costs that you endured to appear before the public prosecutor or the police.
You can check the documents in the case file and make copies, unless the investigation is confidential. If the investigation is confidential (e.g. because its publicity may harm some of the participants), you can ask for access to the case file but the public prosecutor may reject your request. You can appeal against the public prosecutor’s refusal before the court.
The public prosecutor or the police will most probably interview you as a witness.
If you wish to have an active role in the proceedings you can become an assistant to the prosecutor and/or civil claimant. As an assistant you cooperate with the public prosecutor during the investigation and accusation, while as a civil claimant you can claim compensation for damages from the offender.
For private crimes you are obliged to become an assistant within ten days after the submission of the complaint. For the rest of the crimes, you can request to become an assistant at any time during the investigation
To become an assistant you have to pay a court fee. You can be released from the obligation to pay this fee if your income is not sufficient to cover such expenses.
As an assistant you have the following specific rights:
- to present or request the collection of evidence;
- to cross-examine, through your lawyer, the offender and the witnesses;
- to be present at investigative actions;
- to appeal against the decisions of the public prosecutor in charge of your case.
To become a civil claimant you need to make a request within 20 days after a decision to prosecute was made. As a civil claimant you can present evidence supporting your claim for compensation.
What are my rights as a witness?
If the public prosecutor or the police call you for an interview as a witness you will have to appear and answer their questions. You can refuse to answer only if you are in a close relation with the offender (e.g. spouse, partner, child, parent, brother or sister).
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are a child under 16 years of age, the crime must be reported by your legal representative.
If you suffered from domestic or sexual violence (or sometimes in other cases) your interview will be carried out in an informal and reserved environment. Whenever possible, a judge will also be present during the interview (this is mandatory in cases of sexual violence) in order to avoid repeated interviewing: you interview will be used during the trial and you will not be obliged to go to the court.
What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?
You can ask the police or the public prosecutor for information about your rights during the proceedings, about the outcome of the investigation and about the procedure to apply for compensation.
Can I receive legal aid?
You can receive legal aid free of charge if you want to have a lawyer but your income does not allow you to pay the fee 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.
You can choose not to provide your home address to the police but instead e.g. your work address or the address of a victim support office. If you are victim of human trafficking or sexual violence, the media will not be allowed to publish your name or other details that may reveal your identity.
Special protection measures can be applied to you as witness when there is danger for your life, health, freedom or property. Such measures may include interview through videoconference, non-disclosure of your personal data, police protection and/or escort, provision of special equipment, relocation, separate waiting areas, etc. These measures may also apply to your relatives or other persons close to you.
You can benefit from additional witness protection if you are a child, an elderly or disabled person, or you are dependent on the offender. These measures include the appointment of a person to accompany you when you have to go to the police or the court, psychological assistance, prevention of repeated interviewing (e.g. your testimony during the investigation stage can be used in the court so that you do not have to attend the hearing), use of videoconference, etc.
What services and assistance can I benefit from during the investigation of the crime?
You can receive legal, psychological, social, practical and emotional assistance from any of the victim support offices of the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV). Services are free of charge and fully confidential.
You can receive medical assistance free of charge 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.
If you are victim of domestic violence you can receive medical assistance and psychological support free of charge.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
For less serious crimes (complainant crimes against persons or property punishable with less than five years of imprisonment) the public prosecutor may suggest you to participate in a mediation process with the offender. If you agree, a mediation procedure will begin. During this procedure you will have the opportunity to communicate, directly or indirectly, with the offender, with the help of a mediator. If you reach agreement the case will be closed.
If the crime is prosecuted only upon complaint, you can withdraw your complaint at any time during the proceedings in case of reaching an agreement with the offender. In this case the process 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.
How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?
At the end of the investigation, the public prosecutor will review the collected evidence and decide whether to close the case or bring it to court.
The inquiry stage may be followed by an additional investigation stage called “instruction”. This is an optional stage and will take place only if you (as assistant) or the offender requests so. During the instruction a judge, called judge of instruction, will conduct a hearing and collect additional evidence in order to assess if the prosecutor’s decision at the end of the inquiry stage was adequate. At the end of this stage the judge of instruction will decide whether the case should be closed or brought to court.
For less serious crimes (punishable by less than five years of imprisonment) a provisional suspension of the punishment can be applied for a certain period of time. During this period the offender will be obliged to comply with certain requirements and if he/she does so the case will be closed.
For crimes prosecuted upon complaint you will receive a notification from the public prosecutor when the investigation is completed. Within ten days following the notification you have to review the collected evidence and decide whether you wish to bring the case to court or close it.
Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?
If the judge of instruction decides to close the case you can appeal against his/her decision before the court of appeal.
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 proceedings. If you do not speak Portuguese you can use the free of charge assistance of an interpreter each time you have to appear before the police or the public prosecutor.
If you live abroad you can ask to be interviewed in the presence of a judge so that you do not have to appear before the court during the trial. In this case your testimony during the investigation will be used as evidence during the trial.
- 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. 1593/2007 (Portaria n.º 1593/2007) – in Portuguese
- Ordinance No. 799/2006 (Portaria n.º 799/2006) – in Portuguese
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