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glossary
 
 
Here you can find the meaning of some words which may be unfamiliar.
Simply select the initial letter of the word you are looking for.
 
     
 
  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z  
 
     
 
We hope you find it useful!
 
 
 
 
 
 
A
account unit (unidade de conta, UC)
The court account unit (Unidade de Conta, UC) is set at 1/4 of the social support index (Índice de Apoio Social, IAS) for the previous December. It is rounded up or down to the nearest euros and updated automatically each year based on the IAS update rate. In 2015, the UC was 102 Euros.
accusation
It is one of the ways to close the criminal inquiry. The defendant is referred to trial to be judged by the crimes he/she is accused of having committed. Usually the accusation is submitted by the Public Prosecutor but this can be done by the assistant in the case of private crimes.
appeal
This is how the parties to the proceedings can react against a legal decision with which they do not agree. The appeal requests the intervention of a higher court (the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Justice).
arrest
The act of depriving someone of their liberty for a short period, with one of the following aims: to bring the detainee before a court within a maximum of 48 hours to stand trial; to, within the same time period, bring the detainee before a judge either for questioning or to impose a restrictive measure; or to bring the detainee immediately before a judge for any court proceeding.
assistant
This is the victim of the crime (the injured party/complainant) who works with the Public Prosecution Service and who should contribute to the inquiry stage and the examination stage (e.g. by submitting evidence) and appeal against the decisions that affect them. For public and semi-public crimes, it is optional for the victim to have the status of assistant, but it is compulsory for private crimes. Having the status of assistant implies paying the court fee (with the exception of victims of domestic violence, who are exempted of court fees) and appointing a lawyer, but legal aid benefits may be granted.
B
bail (caução)
Bail is a restrictive measure that consists of the deposit, pledge, mortgage or bond, through a bank or otherwise, of an amount stipulated and imposed by a criminal court for a defendant accused of a crime punishable with a term of imprisonment.
C
charge
This is one of the ways of closing the criminal inquiry, whereby the defendant is to be tried for the crimes he/she is accused of having committed. Usually the charge is filed by the Public Prosecution Service, but it may also be filed by the assistant in the case of private crimes.
closing statement

This is the declaration that each party – the Public Prosecution Service and the lawyers of the assistant, the defendant and the civil parties – is entitled to make after the evidence has been presented in order to state the conclusions of fact and of law to which, in their opinion, the evidence leads.

closing the case

This is one of the ways of closing the inquiry stage. The defendant will not go to trial because there is not enough evidence that the crime took place or that it was committed by a particular suspect.

collective court (or panel court)
This is a court composed of three judges which deals with more serious crimes (with a term of imprisonment of over five years).
complaint
It is a statement informing the legal authorities of a crime; it can be mandatory or optional. It is mandatory for the police (for all public crimes), public servants, all agents of the state and managers of public services (for any public crimes they become aware of while performing their duties). It is optional for everyone else and for crimes that public servants, agents of the state and managers of public services become aware of outside their professional duties.
contumacy
A situation that arises when the authorities are not able to summon the defendant or arrest him/her to be taken to trial. The authorities adopt a set of measures aiming at pressing the defendant to present himself/herself before them (e.g. not being allowed to request certain documents such as identity card or driving licence). The defendant is then said to be contumacious.
court (with a single judge)
It is a court composed by three judges that judges the processes for more serious crimes (with a prison sentence over five years).
court authorities
The court authorities are the judge, the examining judge and the Public Prosecution Service.
court recess
Periods when the courts are not dealing with any matters unless the proceedings are classified by law as urgent, such as when defendants are under arrest or in prison.
courts
Under the Portuguese Constitution, these are independent bodies for the administration of justice, that is to say, they are the bodies with the authority to settle legal disputes.
crime
Voluntary (or, sometimes, negligent) behaviour that infringes the criminal law rules - either the Criminal Code or other laws, which are aimed at protecting and safeguarding the fundamental legal interests of society, such as life, freedom, physical and moral integrity, sexual self-determination and property.
crime report
Document written by police, public prosecutors or judges to report a crime; it will initiate criminal proceedings.
criminal police forces
These are the police forces that work alongside the court authorities in criminal investigations and include the Criminal Investigation Force (Polícia Judiciária, PJ), the Public Safety Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, PSP), the National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR) and the Immigration and Border Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF).
D
declaration of identity and residence
This is the least serious of the restrictive measures that may be applied by the judge, the Public Prosecution Service or the police. This measure is compulsory when someone becomes a defendant and consists of the defendant identifying himself/herself, stating their address and being obliged to report to the authorities whenever required by law or when notified to do so. The defendant may not move house or be absent from this address for more than five days without communicating the new address or details of the place where they may be found, since any notices sent by post will be sent to this address.
defence lawyer
This is the lawyer chosen by the defendant or appointed by the State.
He/she protects the defendant's interests before the court authorities.
defendant
This is the status given in court proceedings to someone suspected of having committed a crime and affords him/her a number of procedural rights and duties.
dismissing the process

It is one of the possible ways to close the investigation phase. The defendant does not go to court because there is not enough evidence either that the crime took place or on who committed it.

E
electronic surveillance
Use of remote electronic monitoring technology –electronic tags (pulseiras electrónicas) - to monitor those under house arrest.
evidence
All the different ways that are used to prove the facts (for example: documents, witnesses, forensic tests).
examination stage
This investigation stage is optional in criminal proceedings and only takes place when requested by the defendant or the assistant and takes place between the inquiry stage and the trial. The purpose is to review whether the Public Prosecution Service's decision at the end of the inquiry stage in view of the evidence gathered was appropriate. This stage includes the examinations – investigations and gathering of evidence ordered by the judge with a view to providing the grounds for the decision at the examination stage– and for the examination discussion – the aim of which is, with the intervention of the Public Prosecution Service, the defendant and the assistant, to discuss whether or not there is sufficient evidence to take the defendant to trial.
Examining criminal judge
The judge responsible for conducting the examination stage and who protects the fundamental rights of the people under investigation at the inquiry stage.
expert witness
Someone with specialised technical, scientific or artistic knowledge who is called upon by the court to observe, analyse and interpret certain facts relevant to discovering the truth.
F
fine
A fine is one of the main kinds of penalty and is a monetary penalty. The range of fines goes from 10 to 360 days, depending on the financial situation and personal expenses of the offender.
H
habeas corpus
This is an urgent legal action aimed at releasing someone from unlawful detention or imprisonment.
house arrest
This is a restrictive measure which orders the defendant not to leave or be absent, without authorisation, from their home or from whichever address where they live at that time.
I
in flagrante delicto
This is when an individual is caught in the act of committing a crime, has just committed a crime, or when, immediately after the crime, has been pursued by any person or found with objects or signs which show clearly what they had just done or in which they had just participated..
indictment decision
Decision made by the examining judge at the end of the examination stage. The judge decides that the defendant will go to trial because there is enough evidence to support a possible guilty verdict.
J
judge
This is a court officer who has the power to decide on the cases brought before the court and apply the law to each specific case.
judgment (sentença)
This is the decision taken by a court presided over by a single judge.
judicial secrecy
In cases under judicial secrecy, the public is not allowed to attend any parts of the criminal proceedings, the media is not allowed to report or reproduce any content and access to the case files is not possible for the public and very limited for other parties to the proceedings.
judicial vacation
Terms in which courts do not conduct criminal proceedings unless the proceedings are legally classified as urgent, for example when defendants are under arrest or in prison.
jury court
This is a court composed of three judges and four jury members.
jury member (jurado)
Any citizen called upon to do jury service. The requirements for a jury member in Portugal are: to be included in the electoral register, to be under 65 years old, to have completed compulsory education, not to have any physical or psychological impediment that would make jury service impossible, to have full civil and political rights, not to be under arrest or imprisoned, and not to be in a situation of wilful disobedience.
L
lawyer
This is the legal professional who can advise and represent the various parties and participants in the case in court, particularly the victim, whether he/she is a witness, a civil party or an assistant.
The legal authorities are the judge, the pre-trial judge and the Public Prosecutor.
M
minutes
The document that describes and records what happened during a particular part of criminal proceedings, for example, the trial hearing.
N
non-indictment decision
Decision made by the examining judge at the end of the examination stage. The judge decides that the defendant will not go to trial because there is not enough evidence to support a possible decision to support a guilty verdict.
notice of the crime
Formal communication that a crime was committed. In order for the Public Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings, this information must be obtained from different sources: from personal knowledge, from the police or from a complaint.
O
official report (auto de notícia)
Document prepared by the police, the public prosecutors or the judges, or anyone who has witnessed any crime which must be reported; this document will initiate criminal proceedings.
online complaint system
This is an online system designed to facilitate the filing of complaints and reports with the National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana), the Public Safety Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública) and the Immigration and Border Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras).
It is used for specific types of public and semi-public crimes:
non-aggravated assault; domestic violence, ill-treatment, human trafficking, procuring prostitution, theft, robbery; damage; fraud; work-related fraud; extortion; falsification of documents and technical grades; environmental damage; using the identification or travel documents of another person; pollution; facilitation of illegal immigration; contracting illegal labour and convenience marriages.
Crimes that are not covered by the Online Complaint System (Sistema Queixa Eletrónica) should be reported to the nearest police force.
oral statements
It is a declaration each party - Public Prosecutor and lawyers of the assistant, defendant and civil parties – has a right to make after the evidence has been produced. They will seek to explain the conclusions, in terms of facts and the law, that in their opinion result from that evidence.
P
penalty
This is the punishment imposed on any defendant convicted in criminal proceedings.
The main penalties are a term of imprisonment or a fine.
power of attorney (procuração)
The document authorising another person to act on your behalf. A procuração forense confers powers on a lawyer for the purpose of legal representation.
pre-trial judge
Judge responsible for conducting the pre-trial phase and who intervenes in the investigation phase to defend the fundamental rights of the people under investigation.
pre-trial phase (or instructing phase)
This phase is optional in criminal proceedings and only takes place when requested by the defendant or the assistant. It is an investigation that takes place in-between the investigation phase and the trial.
Its purpose is to review the Public Prosecutor's decision taken at the end of the investigation phase in light of the evidence collected and advise on whether or not this decision was adequate.
This phase includes the so-called instructing acts and the instructing debate.
The instructing acts consist of investigations and collection of evidence ordered by the judge and will inform the decision taken at the end of this phase.
The instructing debate is led by the judge and includes the Public Prosecutor, the defendant and the assistant. Its purpose is to discuss whether or not there is sufficient evidence to take the defendant to court.
presumption of innocence (in dubio pro reo)
This is a fundamental principle in the Portuguese Criminal Code which states that a defendant must be presumed innocent if there is reasonable doubt as to his/her guilt. The court will then decide in favour of the defendant (acquittal, charges are either not increased or reduced, etc.)
preventive detention
Incarceration in a jail is the most serious of the restrictive measures that can be applied to a defendant.
principle of presumption of innocence
(in dubio pro reo)
Fundamental principle in the Portuguese Penal Code stating that a defendant should be presumed innocent if reasonable doubt about his or her guilt remains. The court will thus decide in favour of the defendant: acquittal, charges are either not increased or reduced, etc.
prison sentence
A prison sentence is a main type of sentence that consists in depriving the offender of his or her freedom by committing him or her to spend time in a prison.
private crime
In this kind of crime, it is required that the victim files a complaint and applies for the status of assistant in order for criminal proceedings to begin.
provisional suspension of the proceedings
This applies to crimes punishable with either a term of imprisonment of 5 years or less or a fine. It makes the continuation of the proceedings conditional on the defendant following a set of prohibitions or rules of behaviour for a given period of time. If the defendant complies with these rules, the case is closed; otherwise, the case proceeds.
public crime
In this kind of crime, the case begins regardless of the victim’s wishes and may be reported by anyone, that is, it is not required that the victim files the complaint himself/herself.
Public Prosecution Service (Ministério Público)
The service composed of public prosecutors, which represents the State and which, apart from the other tasks conferred on it by law, conducts criminal proceedings: receiving complaints and reports of crimes, conducting the inquiry, drafting the charge sheet, closing cases and lodging appeals. The officers of the Public Prosecution Service include deputy prosecutors, prosecutors of the Portuguese Republic, deputy prosecutors-general, Vice Prosecutor-General, Prosecutor General.
R
remand
This is the heaviest restrictive measure that may be imposed on anyone suspected of a crime and consists of their being held in a prison establishment.
report
This is the way a crime is communicated to the court authorities; it may be compulsory or optional. It is compulsory for the police (for all public crimes), public servants, other agents of the state and public service managers (for any public crimes they become aware of in the course of their duties). It is optional for everyone else and for crimes which public servants, other agents of the state and public service managers become aware of outside of the course of their duties.
restrictive measures (medidas de coação)
Measures to restrict the freedom of defendants, which are always imposed whenever there is a risk that the defendant might abscond, a risk to the gathering and preservation of evidence, a danger to public security and/or a risk of continuing criminal activity.
ruling (acórdão)
This is the decision of a collective court or of a jury court.
S
semi-public crime
In this kind of crime, the case begins only after the victim files a complaint.
sentence
It is the decision taken by a court presided by a single judge.
single judge court
This is a court with one single judge which deals with less serious crimes.
statements for future recall
When a witness has a serious illness or must travel abroad, which is likely to prevent them from testifying in court, or when they are a victim of human trafficking or sexual crimes, the examining judge may, or must when the victim of a sexual crime is under age, examine the witness during the inquiry stage or the examining stage so that their evidence may be taken into account later at the trial, if necessary.
The participants in this examination, besides the examining judge, are the public prosecutor, the defendant and the defence lawyer and the lawyers of the assistant and of the civil parties.
This statement is known as a statement for future recall and is recorded for use during the trial. However, the trial judge will very often want the witnesses to testify and they may be called and questioned again.
summons or notice
These are used to notify people to attend a specific legal proceeding or to inform them about certain facts or decisions.
suspect
Person suspected of having committed a crime that may be named as a formal suspect or defendant.
suspended prison sentence
Whenever a term of imprisonment of up to five years is imposed on the defendant, the court may suspend the sentence for a certain time after taking into consideration the defendant’s personality, living conditions, and behaviour before and after the crime and the circumstances of the crime. If, during this probation period, the defendant complies with the duties imposed as a condition for the suspension, the penalty will be annulled.
If the defendant does not comply with the conditions and/or commits another crime which shows that the suspended sentence was insufficient punishment, the suspension will be annulled and the offender will have to serve the prison sentence.
suspending the process temporarily
It applies to crimes punishable with either a jail sentence of 5 years or less or a fine.
The continuation of the process is made dependent on the defendant complying with a set of injunctions or rules of behaviour for a given length of time.
If the defendant complies with these rules, the process is dismissed; otherwise, it follows its course.
T
term of imprisonment
A term of imprisonment is one of the main kinds of penalty in criminal proceedings and consists of depriving the offender of his or her freedom by ordering them to spend time in prison.
trial
This is the stage in criminal proceedings where evidence is given, usually at a public hearing, and the judgment against or for the defendant is handed down.
V
victim with specific protection needs
Someone who, owing to their personal characteristics, the type or nature of the crime, and/or the circumstances in which it occurred, is particularly vulnerable to repeated victimisation, secondary victimisation or intimidation, and is therefore in need of special care, particularly with regard to their level of protection.
videoconference
This is one way to provide a witness statement in court, without the person giving the testimony having to be physically present. On the day of the testimony, the witnesses appear at the court in their area of residence and will be connected via videoconference call to the court where the proceedings are being held.
W
Wilful disobedience
A situation that arises when the authorities are not able to serve a summons on the defendant or arrest him/her for trial. The authorities resort to a number of measures aiming at pressuring the defendant to appear (e.g. not being allowed to apply for certain documents such as a national identity card or driving licence). The defendant is then said to be wilfully disobedient.
witness
Anyone who is asked to cooperate with the authorities in finding out the truth, owing to his/her knowledge of the facts.