Crime is all voluntary (or in some cases, negligent) behaviour practiced against life, freedom, physical and moral integrity, sexual self-determination, or the property of another person that is prohibited by criminal laws.
Most of the acts that are considered crimes in Portugal and their penalties are outlined in the Portuguese Penal Code.
As crime is an act that violates the rights of citizens, anyone who commits a crime should be punished, to understand that they should not do it again to the same person and/or anyone else. This punishment also serves to make sure that the rest of society understands that this behaviour is not acceptable.
A report or complaint is the method of notifying the authorities that a crime happened.
Only after a report or complaint is made can the authorities know that a crime occurred and start the investigation.
This is the first step in the criminal proceedings.
If you are or were the victim of a crime, it is very important that you report the crime to the authorities. If you do, it is the more likely that the person who committed the crime will be "caught", held accountable and prevented from doing the same again, either to you or others.
The report is also very important to be able to exercise certain rights. Click here to learn more about the rights of crime victims.
You have the right to report all crimes of which you are or were a victim.
Reporting is your own decision, however, there are certain people who are required to report any and all crimes they become aware of:
We know that reporting a crime is a very difficult decision to make.
If you want to talk to someone before you decide what to do, APAV’s victim support officers are available to speak with you, inform you, advise you and offer you the support you need.
Whatever you decide to do, you always have the right to receive support.
Even if you don’t report the crime, it is very important to talk with someone and seek help. Click here to find out where we are and how you can contact us.
If prefer, you can send us a quick message. Click here to send a message.
There are various reasons why you might not want to report a crime:
"It was not important."
Even a minor crime can be disturbing and upsetting. The authorities know this and will take your complaint seriously.
You may feel embarrassed or ashamed to report the crime. This often happens in cases of sexual assault or domestic violence. The authorities should deal with these situations sensitively and without judgement. Whatever your gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality or race, being a victim of crime can be traumatic.
"The authorities don’t care."
The authorities deal with many cases and may not deal with yours as quickly as you expected, but they will pay due attention to it. They may not always be able to identify or get the person responsible for the crime, but their duty is always to try.
"It's over and it hasn’t affected me.”
If the crime hasn’t had much affect on you, that is good. Some people are able to cope well with these difficult situations and can act almost as if nothing happened, even when they suffered a serious crime. However, if you don’t report the crime, the authorities will not be able to try to catch the person who committed the crime, and they might do it again. You should consider that, the next victim might not be as able as you are to overcome the effects of the crime.
"I'm worried about what will happen next."
It is normal for you to feel apprehensive about having to go to the police to give your statement and to court to testify, but don’t forget that you can receive help while going through this process.
Whatever you decide to do, you always have the right to be supported. Even if you don’t report the crime you have suffered, it is very important that you talk to someone about what happened to you and how you feel and that you get all the help you need.
The complaint or report can be made to any of the following authorities:
For certain crimes, complaints and reports may also be submitted to:
Public Crimes (such as murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse of children, domestic violence, theft, etc.) do not require that the victim is the one to report them. A report filed by anyone is enough to start the criminal proceedings. In other types of crimes, either semi-public crimes (such as less serious assaults, simple theft, etc.) or private crimes (such as insults, defamation, etc.), the victim must be the one to file the complaint.
Regarding the report or complaint, it is important to know that:
After the report or complaint is filed, the investigation phase begins.
Once the crime is reported, the investigation phase of the criminal proceedings begins.
The police will, among other things:
During the investigation, the police may have to talk to the victim more than once:
Medico-legal examinations are one form of collecting evidence during the investigation of the crime.
They are examinations performed on the victim by a doctor in order to take note of any signs of the crime that may have been left by the offender, such as:
These examinations may be performed in the Medico-legal and Forensic Delegation or Office of the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.
Victims of domestic violence, abuse, assault, and sexual violence can report crimes directly at the site of their medico-legal examination.
If you need more information on this subject, APAV can help.
At the end of the investigation phase, the police send all the evidence collected to the Public Prosecutor.
The Public Prosecutor will decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence that the defendant committed the crime:
The procedure for closing the investigation phase is different for private crimes:
If the assistant or the defendant does not agree with the decision of the Public Prosecutor, they can request the opening of a new phase of the process: the pre-trial, or instructing, phase.
This is an optional phase of the criminal process:
it only happens when the assistant or the defendant requests its opening, because they do not agree with the decision taken by the Public Prosecutor at the end the investigation phase.
In this phase, the Public Prosecutor’s decision is debated, and both the assistant and the defendant may present new evidence.
A judge, called the pre-trial or instructing judge:
If the defendant is accused, the case goes to trial. To learn more, click here.
The trial is a hearing that takes place in a courtroom.
During the trial, the judge will compile, listen to and analyse all the evidence that is important to decide whether or not to convict the defendant and impose a sentence for the crime committed. It is also decided at the trial whether the victim is entitled to compensation for damages caused by the crime.
Upon receiving the process, the judge schedules the date of the trial and summons, by letter, all the people who have to participate in it. This letter includes the date, time, and location of the trial, and is called a summons.
To view a trial summons, click here - PDF
If you are under 16 years old, your parents or legal guardians will receive the summons.
If you are notified to be present at a trial, you must attend on the date and time and at the location indicated in the summons. Your presence is very important!
What you know about what happened can be critical to the criminal proceedings.
What if I cannot attend the trial?
If you know in advance you will not be able to attend:
you must inform the Court in writing at least five days in advance, and enclosing and documents justifying your absence/non-attendance.
If something unexpected happens (ex : a sudden illness) that prevents your presence at trial:
you must inform the Court as soon as possible. You must also submit evidence supporting why you could not attend the trial, such as a medical certificate, within three days.
Having to work or be in class is not a valid excuse justification to miss the trial:
the court can write you a statement justifying your absence from school or work.
If you do not attend trial without justification, you may have to pay a fine.
It's perfectly normal for you to feel anxious and insecure about participating in a trial. It's a new situation that you're not used to.
If you want to know more about the way people often feel when they go to or are on trial, click here.
It is important to prepare yourself.
If you prefer, you can send us a quick message. Click here to send a message.
Some helpful tips:
PREPARE IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR COURT DATE:
The trial is presided over by the judge. In more serious crimes, the court consists of three judges and is called a collective court. Some even more serious cases may use a trial by jury, composed of three judges and four citizens, called jurors.
At the trial will be present:
Trials are almost always public, that is, anyone can enter the courtroom and watch them.
There are, however, a few exceptions: for example, in cases of human trafficking or sexual crimes access to the courtroom is usually denied to the public.
The trial may be a somewhat time-consuming phase and last longer than just one day. The judge may have a lot of evidence to consider and several different people to hear, for example: the defendant, the victim , the witnesses, experts and anyone else important for discovering the truth.
At the trial, the judge asks questions to different people and assesses the evidence of the crime:
After the judge has seen, heard, and analysed all of the evidence of the crime, the Public Prosecutor, the assistant’s lawyer, the lawyer for the civil parties, and the defendant’s lawyer have the right to tell the judge what they consider has or hasn’t been proved and, if they believe that it has been established that the defendant committed the crime, what punishment should be applied. After these statements, the defendant may also, if they wish, say anything else they consider important for their defence.
If the process is simple and the decision is easy to make, the judge may announce their decision immediately at the end of the trial.
It is most common for the judge to set a date a few days later, to read their decision.
The judge's decision is called the sentence. To learn more about this, click here.
The sentence is the decision that the judge takes in relation to the criminal proceedings. In the sentencing, the judge states whether or not the defendant is responsible for the crime. When this decision is made by a collective court or in a trial by jury, the sentence is called a ruling (acórdão in Portuguese).
There are two possible decisions:
Things to remember when the judge reads the sentence:
If you are notified to participate in a trial, remember the following:
The appeal must state the reasons for not agreeing with the sentence.
When it is no longer possible to present an appeal either because the deadline has passed or because the law does not allow for more appeals, the decision becomes final.