The crime

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.

Reporting a crime

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.

Why report?

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:

  • The Police are required to report all crimes of which they become aware.
  • Civil servants (e.g. teachers) and other government professionals who, as a result of their duties, learn that a crime was committed, are also required to report.
  • Anyone who is aware of situations that may endanger the life, health, or freedom of a child or young person under the age of 18 is also required to report.

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.

"It's embarrassing.”
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.

How do you report a crime?

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:

  • They are free of charge. You do not have to pay anything for them.
  • They can be made verbally or in writing.
  • They should include as much information as possible about what happened: day, time, place and circumstances of the crime, the identities of the suspect(s) (if known) and the witnesses (if any) and other evidence.
  • You can present a complaint even if you don’t know who committed the crime.
  • The complaint can be made anonymously, that is, you can report a crime without identifying yourself. The victim will have to be identified in the complaint or report.
  • Victims under 16 years old cannot submit a complaint on their own. The complaint must be submitted by a legal guardian, such as a parent, an older sibling, a close relative, etc.
  • The victim should receive a certificate confirming that the report or complaint was made. To learn more about this right, click here.

After the report or complaint is filed, the investigation phase begins.


The investigation

Once the crime is reported, the investigation phase of the criminal proceedings begins.

The Police, under the direction of the Public Prosecutor, will seek to determine whether or not a crime happened and collect evidence to identify who committed it.

The police will, among other things:

  • Question the victim, the defendant and the witnesses;
  • Examine the crime scene to find and collect traces and clues;
  • Request the collaboration of experts who can help find out what really happened: for example, the police may ask a psychologist to assess the defendant's personality; or request a medical report from the medical examiner who performed the victim’s medico-legal examination.
  • Request relevant documents and reports for the investigation (for example, lists of telephone calls made by the defendant, etc.).

During the investigation, the police may have to talk to the victim more than once:

  • The victim must collaborate with the police whenever asked and should inform them of anything that might be useful for the investigation.
  • If they want to know how the proceedings are progressing, the victim can contact the police officer in charge of the investigation or the Public Prosecutor.

During the investigation, restrictive measures can be applied to the defendant.
To learn more about restrictive measures, click here.
To find out how the investigation phases closes, click here.

The decision at the end of the investigation

If the Public Prosecutor comes to the conclusion that no crime was committed, that there is not enough evidence of the alleged crime, or that the application of a guardianship measure is unnecessary, (in the case of less serious crimes) the case is dismissed.

The Public Prosecutor may decide to suspend the process in cases concerning a less serious crime, if the young person presents a plan of behaviour that shows that they will seek to avoid committing any further crimes in the future.

In other words, if the young person commits to behaving correctly, accepting to do, or not do, certain things (for example, go to school, or not associate with certain people), and fulfil the plan of behaviour during the time the process is suspended, the process will be dismissed.

If it is found that the application of a guardianship measure is necessary, the Public Prosecution asks for the opening of the jurisdictional phase.

Jurisdictional phase

After receiving the Public Prosecutor’s request to open the jurisdictional phase, the judge takes an initial decision, in which they can dismiss the case, (in the case of less serious crimes and with the agreement of the Public Prosecutor) set a date for a a preliminary hearing, or alert the young person suspected of committing the crime by letter to prepare for the trial, presenting evidence and/or making an allegation as they see fit.

If the judge deems that a preliminary hearing should be held, the young person, their parents, legal guardians, or the person who has them in their care, and the victim are notified by letter, which is called a summon, to participate in this hearing. The victim’s presence is not mandatory.

At this hearing the judge, the Public Prosecutor, the young person and their parents, legal guardians, or the person who has them in their custody will seek to come to an agreement on the guardianship measure to apply.

If this preliminary hearing does not take place or does not result in an agreement, the young person suspected of committing the crime is notified by letter to proceed with their preparations for the previously mentioned trial.

At the trial hearing, the judge presents the issues that will be disputed and the Public Prosecutor and the young person’s defence lawyer present evidence to support or deny the accusations.

At the end, the decision taken by the Court is read before the hearing participants.

Educational guardianship measures

Guardianship measures can range from less serious (a reprimand), to the most serious (detention measures).

The reprimand is a formal admonition of the young person by the judge that draws attention to the wrongfulness of their actions and encourages the young person to conform their future behaviour to the law and the rules of life in society.

Detention in an educational centre, which lasts a minimum of two months and a maximum of two years, is intended to remove the young person from their usual environment and teach them respect for the law and norms of social behaviour.

Other measures provided under the law are, for example, a ban of driving, compensation for the damage caused to the victim, and the imposition of community service.

What if you do not agree with the sentence?

The Public Prosecutor, the young person, the young person’s parents or legal representatives or guardians, the victim, or anyone who has been affected by and disagrees with the decision, can submit an appeal within five days of the sentencing.

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.