It's only natural that taking part in court proceedings can make you feel anxious and that you’ll have a number of questions.

You’ll want to know what is going to happen and what you’re supposed to do.
Here you will find a brief description of the stages in a criminal case.

We’ll try to give you short simple answers to questions such as:
"How do I report a crime?",
"How is the investigation conducted?",
"What happens in court?",
"What is an appeal?"

and many others.

The case may be a long one and there will be a number of participants involved.
You can learn more about them in the section on who is who?

The process described below only applies when the individual who committed the crime is 16 or over. In cases where the crime is committed by a child or young person under the age of 16, a different kind of procedure known as educational guardianship is used.


A crime is understood as voluntary behaviour (or, in some cases, negligent behaviour) that infringes either the Criminal Code (Código Penal) or other specific laws. The purpose of these laws is to protect and safeguard the legal interests that are fundamental for society, such as life, freedom, physical and moral integrity, sexual self-determination and property.

Depending on how criminal proceedings are initiated and some of their other features, crimes may be classified as:

  1. Public crimes Examples of public crimes are murder, kidnapping, child sex abuse, domestic violence and robbery. It is sufficient that the Public Prosecution Service becomes aware of the crime in any way for criminal proceedings to be initiated. In other words, the case begins regardless of whether or not the victim wishes to press charges and the crime may be reported by anyone.
  2. Semi-public crimes Semi-public crimes include rape, theft and some offences against physical integrity. Criminal proceedings for these crimes only begin after the victim of the crime has filed a complaint. In other words, the public prosecutor may only initiate criminal proceedings if the victim indicates their intention to do so by filing a complaint within six months of the crime.
  3. Private crimes Private crimes include defamation, libel and slander, among others. The procedure for initiating both private crimes and semi-public crimes begins in the same way: the Public Prosecution Service may initiate proceedings if the victim files a complaint. After the complaint is made, the victim has ten days in which to apply for the status of assistant and for a lawyer to be appointed. This is necessary so that if it is considered, at the end of the investigation stage, that there is sufficient evidence to send the defendant to trial, the victim may press charges. If he/she does not do so, the case will be closed.


Reporting the crime is always the first step.

It is only after the complaint has been made that it is possible for the authorities to know that a crime occurred and to launch an investigation.?

The importante of reporting a crime

If you were the victim of a crime, it is very important that you report it to the authorities. If you do so, it is more likely that the person who committed the crime will be caught, held responsible and prevented from doing the same thing again, to you or to others.

Furthermore, it may be necessary to have reported the crime to be able to claim any rights to insurance or compensation, for example.

Reporting the crime to the authorities is also important for the purposes of crime statistics and general prevention or even for holding specific activities in certain cases and places to promote safety.

Police forces and personnel are required to report any crime they become aware of, whether in the course of their duties or because of their duties.
Reporting a crime is also mandatory for anyone who becomes aware of situations that endanger the life, physical or psychological integrity, or freedom of a child or young person under the age of 18.

If you would like to talk to someone before making your decision, the APAV's victim support staff are available to provide information and advice.

There are several reasons why you might be unwilling to report a crime:

  • "It wasn’t important". Even a minor crime can be distressing and upsetting. The authorities know this and will take your complaint seriously.
  • "It's embarrassing". You may be ashamed to report the crime. This often happens in cases of sexual or domestic violence. Authorities should deal with these situations sensitively and not judge you. Whatever your gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality or ethnicity, being a victim of crime can be traumatic.
  • "The authorities don't care". The authorities have many cases and may not deal with yours as quickly as you would expect, but they will give it the proper attention. They may not always be able to identify or catch 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 has not had much impact on you, all the better. Some people are able to cope well with these difficult situations and act almost as if nothing had happened, even when a serious crime was committed against them. Nevertheless, if you don't report the crime, the authorities will not be able to try to catch the person who committed the crime and he/she might do it again. You should consider the fact 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’s normal to feel nervous about having to go to the police, make a statement and then go to court to testify, but don’t forget that help is available to you throughout the entire process.

Whatever you decide to do, you are entitled to support. Even if you don't report the crime against you, it is very important that you talk to someone about what happened and how you feel, and that you receive all the help you need.

How to report a crime

You can file your complaint or report with any of the following authorities:

Each of these authorities has a duty to receive all the complaints and reports made to them, even if the crime was not committed within their territorial area or, in the case of the police forces, if they do not have jurisdiction for the investigation.

In some cases or in relation to certain crimes, complaints and reports may be filed with the Immigration and Border Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras), at the branches of the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal e Ciências Forenses), forensic offices and hospitals with forensics experts or via the Electronic Complaints Site of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministério da Administração Interna).

You can file a complaint or report even if you don't know who committed the crime. It is for the authorities to then investigate and ascertain the identity of the offender.

For public crimes such as murder, robbery or domestic violence, it doesn’t have to be the victim that reports it. Anyone who knows of the crime can do so and this is sufficient for the Public Prosecutor to initiate criminal proceedings, even if the victim doesn’t wish to press charges. If you wish to report a crime but are afraid of retaliation, for example, and don’t want to reveal your identity, then you may do so anonymously. It is usually preferable that you identify yourself, however, so that you can be called upon to cooperate in the investigation at a later stage.

For other types of crimes, whether semi-public crimes such as non-aggravated theft, non-aggravated offences against physical integrity or private crimes such as insults, the victims themselves must file the complaint within 6 months of the crime. Otherwise, the Public Prosecutor will not be able to initiate criminal proceedings. If the victim cannot do so, because he/she is under 16, has died, or is ill, or for any other reason, then a close relative such as a husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, can file the complaint.

The complaint (unlike the report of the crime) may be withdrawn by the victim, that is to say, if for any reason the victim does not wish the proceedings to go ahead, he/she can withdraw the complaint, as long as the defendant is not against this. The application to withdraw the complaint must be submitted to the authority responsible for the proceedings at that time, i.e. the Public Prosecutor during the inquiry stage and examination stage or the judge during the trial stage.

Reporting a crime or filing a complaint is free of charge, does not require any formalities and can be done verbally or in writing. You should include as many details as possible to help the investigation, such as the date, time, place and circumstances of the crime, identification of the suspect(s) and the names of any witnesses and any other evidence.

When the victim reports a crime or files a complaint, he/she is entitled to receive a certificate showing that the complaint was registered, that is, a document confirming that the complaint was made and stating the type of crime, along with the date and place, and the harm or damage caused. To find out more about this entitlement, click here.

What happens after a crime is reported? To find out more, click here.


This stage is optional and only takes place when requested by the victim in their role as assistant in the proceedings, or the suspect, because they do not agree with the decision of the Public Prosecutor at the end of the inquiry stage.

The examination stage is therefore a stage where the grounds for the decision are discussed and where both the victim and the defendant can submit evidence which, for whatever reason, was not taken into account in the investigation stage, such as new witnesses or documents.

In this stage, a judge - called an examining judge - will review the evidence gathered during the inquiry stage, any other evidence which they understand should be obtained, or which is submitted at this stage and which they considers relevant.
The examining judge will question the victim whenever he/she deems it necessary and whenever the victim requests it.

The examination stage ends with a discussion known as the examination discussion. This is managed by the judge and involves the Public Prosecutor, the defendant and the defence lawyer, the victim and the victim’s lawyer.

At the end of this discussion, the judge decides whether or not to confirm the Public Prosecutor's decision in the investigation stage:

  • if the examining judge decides to dismiss the case, the defendant will not go to trial. This decision is called a non-indictment decision and may be appealed.
  • if the judge decides to proceed with the case, the defendant will go to trial. This decision is called an indictment decision and, as a rule, may not be appealed.

In short, if the Public Prosecutor and the victim, as long as he/she has the status of assistant, do not agree with the examining judge’s decision, they may appeal it.

N.B. In order to request the commencement of the examination stage, whether in order to take part in the examination discussion or to appeal the examining judge's decision, the victim must request the status of assistant.

If the examining judge decides to charge the defendant, the case goes to trial. To find out more about the trial, click here.

Forensic exams

Forensic examinations of the victim of a crime are a key part of the legal system. The victim’s body is examined for marks caused by violence used during the crime, such as scratches, redness, wounds, bruising or other injuries. They are also used to find any biological or non-biological traces on the victim’s body and/or clothes and items which may have been left or used by the offender, such as blood, sperm, vaginal fluids, skin, hair, fibres, etc.

These forensic exams are very important because they can provide very significant evidence for criminal proceedings. Besides their usefulness in gathering evidence of the violence used, these exams may also play an important role in the victim's recovery, as they provide a time of quiet and healing in contrast to the violence of the crime.

If you need further information about how important forensic exams are and how they are carried out, APAV can help.

If you are the victim of a sexual crime, you should contact the Criminal Investigation Police (Polícia Judiciária). Apart from taking any urgent measures which may be necessary, they will refer the victim, if necessary, to the local health unit and/or forensic branch or office of the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences for diagnosis, treatment and/or gathering evidence. If you go directly to one of the Legal Medicine and Forensic Branches (located in some hospitals) of the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences or to a local health unit after suffering a sexual crime or an assault which caused you injury, you will be able to report the crime there and be seen either by a forensic doctor or, in hospitals where these doctors are not available on a 24-hour basis, by an emergency room doctor.


Closing the inquiry stage:
charging, closing or provisionally suspending the case.

At the end of the investigation stage, the criminal police force sends all the evidence gathered to the Public Prosecution Service, which will decide whether or not there is enough evidence that the suspect committed the crime:

  • if the Public Prosecutor believes that there is, the defendant is formally charged and will stand trial. In the formal charge sheet, the Public Prosecutor will state the name of the suspect, which acts they are believed to have committed, what crime they are charged with and what evidence the Public Prosecutor intends to present to the court .
  • if the Public Prosecutor considers that there is insufficient evidence, then the case is closed. Unfortunately, not all cases are solved. Sometimes it may not be possible to find out who committed the crime or there is not enough evidence for the Public Prosecutor to take the case to court. If the victim does not agree with the case being closed, he/she can file an application with the direct superior of the Public Prosecutor who decided to close the case, asking them to press charges against the defendant or to continue the investigation. In the latter case, the victim should submit new evidence to be taken into consideration.
  • When several crimes are involved, the defendant may be charged with only some of them, and the other cases closed. A closed case can be reopened if significant new evidence appears.
  • there is also a third possible course of action, which is like an opportunity for the defendant: the provisional suspension of the case. For a certain period of time established by the judge, the case is suspended and one or more obligations are imposed on the defendant– for example, to pay compensation to the victim, to donate a certain sum of money either to the State or to private charities, to provide a community-interest service, not to live in particular areas, or not to contact specific people, etc. If the suspect complies with these obligations during the suspension period, then the case is closed. Suspending the case temporarily only applies to crimes punishable with a term of imprisonment of not more than 5 years if the suspect agrees and, when the victim has the status of assistant, the victim also agrees.

In the case of a less serious crime – a private crime – the procedure is different. After filing the complaint, the victim has 10 days to apply for the status of assistant. The assistant’s role is to work with the Public Prosecution Service and the fact of having this status allows the victim to participate more actively in the case. In order to be granted the status of assistant, the victim has to have a lawyer and pay the court fee of one Account Unit (with the exception of victims of domestic violence, who are exempted of court fees). If the victim cannot afford these expenses, they can request legal aid. When private crimes are involved, it is compulsory for the victim to have the status of assistant since, at the end of the inquiry stage, the Public Prosecution Service, rather than deciding whether to charge the suspect or not, will send the evidence gathered to the assistant to decide whether or not they wish to press charges against the suspect, that is, whether or not to take the defendant to court. For other kinds of crimes, the status of assistance is optional but this status may be very useful and effective, especially to have a say in deciding on the provisional suspension of the case, agreeing or otherwise to close the case, or filing applications and lodging appeals.

What if the victim, or the suspect, doesn’t agree with the decision of the Public Prosecution Service and wants the matter to go before a judge? To find out more, click here.


If the defendant was charged at the end of the inquiry stage or indicted in the examination stage, the case moves on to the trial court.

The trial is a hearing that takes place in a courtroom. The purpose of the trial is to decide whether there is enough evidence to convict the defendant of the crime of which he/she is accused and, if so, to impose a sentence.

At the trial, it is also discussed and decided whether the victim and any other people who suffered losses as a result of the crime and requested compensation are entitled to receive it.

Scheduling the trial

After receiving the case file, the judge (who is not the same judge as the examining judge) schedules the trial date and a summons or notice is sent by letter to all the people who have to participate in it.
Write down the date in your calendar or wherever you write down important events to ensure that you will not forget to attend.

The trial must be scheduled at least 30 days in advance.

Preparing for trial

It is perfectly normal to feel anxious and uncertain before the trial. This is a new situation and one to which you are not accustomed. That's why it is important that you prepare for it. APAV can help you do this.

If you get the chance, go to the courtroom a few days before the trial so you become familiar with different areas, such as the courtroom and the witness waiting room and, if possible, attend another trial or at least part of it.

On the day of the trial, you are likely to meet the defendant and his/her friends and relatives. You should prepare for this possibility by planning in advance what you should do: trying to keep away from them, not reacting to any provocation and, if you feel threatened, informing the court officer and/or the police officer in the courtroom immediately. If possible, take someone with you. Whatever your role in the proceedings, you are entitled to be accompanied by a lawyer.

At the trial, you will be asked questions by the judge, the Public Prosecutor, the defence lawyer and your own lawyer, if you have one. It is natural that you will be asked to provide as much detail as possible, because the more information the court has, the better its decision will be. What the judge expects you to do is to tell the court what happened in your own words. Therefore, before the trial, you should try to arrange in your mind all the information you think it is important to transmit to the court. You could also take some notes with you, such as the dates of the most relevant facts. However, it is normal that you will not remember some details, especially if some time has gone by since the day of the crime. In these cases, don’t be afraid to say "I don’t remember".

Don’t forget that if you were the victim of a crime, attending the trial can play an important part in your recovery.
Criminal behaviour is neither accepted nor tolerated by society and the trial plays a key role in conveying this message: those who break the law must be held responsible and suffer the consequences.

What happens if I miss the trial

Do not miss the trial!
Your presence is very important!
Your knowledge about what happened is essential and can be decisive for the judge's decision. Missing the trial will delay the proceedings or make it difficult to find out the truth or for justice to be done.

If you know in advance that you cannot attend the trial, you should inform the court in writing at least 5 days in advance and enclose any documents that justify your non-attendance.

If something unexpected happens to prevent your appearing in court, such as illness or transport delays, you must inform the court as soon as possible and, within 3 days, submit evidence proving why you could not attend the trial, such as a medical certificate or a declaration from the transport company confirming the delay.

Needing to work is not a valid excuse as the court issues attendance declarations to justify your absence from your place of work.
If you don’t attend the trial and don’t provide any justification, you will have to pay a fine. The court may also order the police to detain you and bring you to court.

Where and when to go

If you received a summons or notice to attend a trial, you must attend on the date and at the place stated.

Do plan your trip to the court in advance by getting information about its exact location and estimating the travel time. To find locations on a map, click here.

If possible, try to arrive a little early as security checks sometimes take time, particularly in the larger courts, and to find out exactly where you must go. If you are not sure, ask a court officer, who will be able to direct you to where you need to go. After reaching your destination, wait until a court officer calls the names of the people attending the trial. Respond when your name is called so that your presence there is recorded. You should then wait until the court officer calls you into the courtroom. If you are attending as a witness then you can only enter the courtroom when it is your turn to testify. You cannot attend the trial before that, but you may do so after testifying.

Sometimes the trial may start late either because not all the participants have arrived or because the previous trial is running late. In either case, you must wait. It is a good idea to take a book, a newspaper or a magazine to read, and/or music to listen to while you wait.

Who may attend

Trials are almost always open to the public, that is, anyone can go into the courtroom and attend the hearing.

There are a few exceptions, however, such as in cases involving sexual crimes or human trafficking. In this kind of trial, the public is not usually allowed into the courtroom in order to protect the victim's privacy.

The courtroom


The trial hearing is presided over by the judge. In cases involving more serious crimes, the court is composed of three judges and is called a collective court (a panel court). For some of the more serious crimes, there may be a jury trial, comprising a panel of 3 judges and 4 citizens.

The other people present at the trial are:

The victims role in the trial

The victim can participate in the trial as an assistant, as a civil party or as a witness.

As an assistant, the victim has an active role in the trial.

He/she cooperates with the Public Prosecutor in producing evidence of the facts described in the indictment and his/her lawyer may, for example, submit evidence, cross-examine the defendant, the witnesses and the expert witnesses. At the end of the trial, the assistant may also present his/her arguments, that is, give his/her opinion on the evidence presented and on whether or not the defendant should be convicted.

As a civil party, the victim will defend his/her right to damages. The victim’s lawyer, if he/she has one, may cross-examine the defendant, the witnesses and the expert witnesses about aspects related to the claim for damages, particularly about the harm which the crime caused to the victim.

Whatever the victim’s role in the trial, his/her presence there is very important.

The victim's relatives may not necessarily be called as witnesses but they are entitled, with a few exceptions, to attend the trial.

The beginning of the trial

The trial may only be postponed in exceptional circumstances, such as the absence of a person whose presence is deemed essential or the need to gather some last-minute evidence.
Ideally, the trial takes place without interruption from start to finish. In many cases, however, this is not possible, especially when there are many people who must be examined – defendants, witnesses, expert witnesses or other participants in the proceedings. Therefore, the judge can adjourn the hearing and schedule its continuation for another day.

If the defendant was served a summons to appear in court but fails to attend, the trial may be held even in his/her absence and the sentence communicated to him/her at a later stage. If it was not possible to serve the summons, because, for example, the defendant’s whereabouts were unknown, this means that the defendant breached his/her duty to inform the court of his/her absence from the address given. In this case, the proceedings will be stayed while the authorities attempt to locate him/her. In these cases, the defendant is classified as wilfully disobedient and his/her name is included in a register of wilfully disobedient persons. This carries a number of negative consequences, including arrest warrants being issued in their names, not being able to obtain documents such as identity cards or driving licences, and possibly having their property seized, all with the objective of finding them and holding them liable for the acts they are suspected of having committed.

The trial starts by identifying the defendant and then the judge reads the charge. Next, the Public Prosecutor and the lawyers, if they wish, have their turn to speak so that they can describe briefly what they intend to prove. It is however normal to move directly on to the evidence stage.

The evidence

All the evidence is presented at the trial to the judge and to the other participants to make their experience with the evidence as direct as possible. The defendant is examined and the witnesses questioned even if they had already given evidence during the investigation. The expert witnesses may be asked to explain the exams they conducted and documents such as medical reports are reassessed.

The first person to be questioned is the defendant. He/she is entitled to refuse to provide any statement since no one can be forced to testify against themselves. However, the statements he/she made at earlier stages may be used and weighed up by the judge. If the defendant is willing to make a statement, because he/she considers it may be helpful for his/her defence, the judge starts by asking whether or not what is written in the charge is true, that is, whether or not the defendant confesses to the facts. The defendant then has the chance to give his/her version of what happened and the judge may interrupt in order to ask specific questions. After that, the judge first asks the Public Prosecutor and afterwards the lawyers if they want to ask questions.

If the defendant confesses to the facts of he/she is accused, the crime is considered proven and therefore, in principle, it is not necessary to submit further evidence. If there is no further evidence to be submitted. e.g. if there is no civil action for damages, the trial moves directly on to the closing statements.

If the defendant does not confess, then in general the victim is called to testify. The judge starts by asking questions about his/her identity and the victim must remain standing while answering these questions. Next, the judge hands over to the Public Prosecutor, who will ask the victim to describe the facts. It is normal for the Public Prosecutor to interrupt your responses sometimes with questions because it may be necessary to give a better or more detailed explanation of some aspects that are less clear. It is then the turn of the lawyers who are present to ask questions. It is possible that you may feel uncomfortable with some questions asked by the defence lawyer and think that they are challenging what you went through. Don’t forget that the defence lawyer has to defend his/her client’s interests. Stay calm and always answer as objectively as possible. If any question exceeds the acceptable boundaries, it is for the judge to interrupt and maintain order and discipline. If you feel that any of the participants is being rude or aggressive, calmly convey your feeling to the judge.

Next, the witnesses are examined. The prosecution witnesses are first examined by the Public Prosecutor or by the assistant's lawyer if it was he/she who requested their presence, and then by the other participants. The defence lawyer is always the last to ask questions. Any witness under the age of 16 may only be questioned by the judge, but the other participants can ask the judge to ask the questions they consider relevant. Witnesses are entitled to reimbursement of the expenses they incurred by participating in the trial.

The defendant may be removed from the courtroom while some witnesses are testifying, particularly the victim, if the court considers that his/her presence may deter the victim from telling the truth, or if he/she is under 16 and there are reasons to believe that testifying in the presence of the defendant may have a serious adverse effect.

Expert witnesses are then heard if this has been requested or when the court wants to clarify any detail of the exams they conducted. This usually occurs after the witnesses have testified.

All the oral evidence given in court is recorded so that, if there is an appeal, the appeal court can listen to the recordings and does not need to have the participants called to testify again.

Apart from witness testimonies, other evidence such as documents may be relevant and these must be included in the case file in order to be taken into account. The judge may also consider it important to visit the crime scene in order to get to know it better and for any re-enactment of the facts in the presence of all the participants in the proceedings.

It is natural that, during the trial, the defendant and/or the witnesses may say something that you may find disturbing or unpleasant, particularly when you know that it is not true.

Stay calm and, when asked to contribute, tell the truth without getting annoyed or losing your temper.

How does the trial end

After the evidence stage, the judge will ask the defendant some questions about his/her personal, family, professional and financial situation. The answers to these questions may be important for the court’s decision, particularly with regard to sentencing: for example, the defendant's financial situation is taken into account when deciding which fine to impose.

Afterwards, the Public Prosecutor, the assistant's lawyer, the lawyer for the civil parties and the defence lawyer are entitled to make their closing statements, that is, to tell the judge what they consider was proven or otherwise and, if they think it was proven that the defendant committed the crime, which punishment should be imposed. After these statements, the defendant may still, if he/she wishes, add anything else he/she considers important for his/her defence.

If the case is a simple one and the decision is easy, the judge may announce it immediately. However, it is more common for the judge to schedule a date some days later for reading the decision.


The judgment is the decision in the proceedings and includes the facts which the judge considers proven, the unproven facts and the evidence on which it was based.
If the defendant is convicted, the decision also includes the type of sentence and the information taken into account for deciding on the sentence.

In cases tried before a collective court (panel court), the decision is reached by a simple majority of the votes of the 3 judges. In cases tried by a jury court, the decision is also reached by a simple majority of the votes cast by the 3 judges and the 4 jurors. When the decision is made by a collective court or by a jury court, it is called a ruling.

The defendant may be convicted of one or more of the crimes with which he/she was charged and acquitted of others, or even acquitted of all the crimes with which he/she was charged.

If the defendant is convicted, the main sentence may be either an actual or suspended term of imprisonment or a fine. A secondary sentence may also be imposed.

The participants in the proceedings are entitled to receive a copy of the judgment and should request it from the administrative office of the court. Anyone is entitled to read the judgment and should request it at the administrative office of the court if they wish to do so.


If the defendant, the assistant or the civil parties disagree with the judgment, they can lodge an appeal via their respective lawyers. The Public Prosecutor may also lodge an appeal.

The appeal must be lodged in writing with the court where the trial took place within 30 days.

In particularly complex cases, the time limit for lodging the appeal may be extended by another 30 days.

The appeal must state the reasons for not agreeing with the judgment and must weigh up the evidence submitted and/or whether the applicable legal procedures were followed.
Any parties to the proceedings who are affected by the lodging of the appeal are notified so that they may lodge their response within 30 days.

The appeal and the responses to it, along with any other elements relevant to the case, are then sent by the trial court to the court of appeal. In some cases, for example, when it is only a point of law that is being challenged, the appeal is sent directly to the Supreme Court of Justice.

After the appeal is examined by the judges and by the Public Prosecutor assigned to the appeal court, a hearing may be scheduled at which all the parties affected by the appeal will have the chance to present oral arguments about the same. Once the appeal hearing has ended, or a few days later, the appeal court makes its ruling.

You can lodge an appeal not only against the judgment but also against other decisions made at different stages of the proceedings - for example, the final decision in the examination stage.

When it is no longer possible to lodge an appeal, either because the time limit has expired or because the law does not allow further appeals, the decision becomes final or, in other words, the case has been judged.


In addition to the ordinary criminal proceedings, there are three special types of proceedings:


Summary judgment procedure

The summary judgment procedure is used to judge people who are caught in the act of committing a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, have just committed the crime or, immediately after the crime, have been pursued by any person or found with objects or signs which show clearly what they had just done.

It is extremely likely that the defendant committed the crime and, consequently, no investigation stages are necessary and the trial is held 48 hours after the defendant’s arrest.

This period can be extended to 5 days if it includes a weekend or a holiday. However, the trial of the defendant may be postponed for up to a maximum of 20 days after the arrest if he/she requests time to prepare a defence, when the Public Prosecutor takes the view that it is necessary to collect essential evidence to uncover the truth, or when this is essential to ensure the presence of witnesses or to file exams, expert witness reports or documents, which the judge considers vital for the court's decision.

The victim can be named as an assistant or act as a civil party if he/she requests this, even if only orally, at the beginning of the trial.  

The fast-track procedure

The fast-track procedure is, as the name implies, shorter than the ordinary procedure. Where there is clear and simple evidence that the offence committed is one punishable with a fine or a term of imprisonment of not more than five years (for example, some cases of bodily harm, threats, petty theft, etc.) and as to who committed the crime, the Public Prosecutor may charge the defendant in the 90 days after the crime, on the basis of the charge sheet prepared by the police or after a brief investigation.

Clear and simple evidence essentially includes document evidence or the evidence of witnesses who were present and have identical versions of what happened.

Upon receiving the charge, the judge schedules a date for the trial, which takes precedence over ordinary trials (except urgent proceedings).

This type of proceeding was created to deal with crimes such as bouncing a cheque or media libel where the proof is practically already available as it consists of documents. Hence, the intention is to speed up these proceedings by shortening the different stages in the case.

The simplified procedure

The simplified procedure applies in cases involving crimes punishable with either a term of imprisonment of not more than five years or only a fine (for example, non-aggravated bodily harm, threats, petty theft). Its purpose is to simplify criminal proceedings by reaching a consensus.

At the end of the inquiry stage, the Public Prosecutor at the request of the defendant or after questioning the defendant and taking the view that in this particular case, the penalty to be imposed should not be a term of imprisonment, files an application with the court in which, after describing the facts, the evidence and the laws infringed, he/she justifies the reasons for not imposing a term of imprisonment, and closes with the proposed penalty.


  • If the judge agrees, he/she notifies the defendant of the application filed by the Public Prosecutor and asks whether or not the defendant agrees with the proposed penalty. If the defendant agrees, he/she is convicted accordingly and the case comes to an end.
  • If the judge does not agree or if he/she agrees but the defendant does not accept the penalty proposed by the Public Prosecutor, the case will proceed as a different kind of proceeding.
    There are no civil parties allowed in this kind of proceeding but the court may grant financial reparation to the victim.

In summary, as this form of proceeding is based on an agreement between the judge, the Public Prosecutor and the defendant (and the assistant, in private crime cases), there is no trial.


Always tell the truth.

Always tell the truth.
Telling the truth is describing everything that happened in as much detail as you can remember. This is your role as a witness.

Listen carefully to the questions you are asked.

Listen carefully to the questions you are asked.
Wait until the end of the question before replying.

Take as much time as you need to think.

Take as much time as you need to think about the question you were asked and about your answer.

Respond slowly and calmly.

Respond slowly and calmly to all the questions using short clear sentences.

It is natural that during the trial

It is natural that during the trial some of what is said or some of the questions you are asked may cause you discomfort, if you feel that what you went through is being challenged.
Keep in mind that this may be part of the defendant's defence strategy, so try to stay calm and not let it affect you.

Do not be afraid to say everything you know.

Do not be afraid to say everything you know and all the details you can remember. All the information you can provide may be important to finding out what happened.

If, in order to describe what happened, you need to use less appropriate words, such as swear words used by the defendant during the crime, you should do so.

Reply only to what you are asked.

Reply only to what you are asked.
Don’t try to please whoever is asking the questions by providing information about subjects with which you are not familiar.

Don’t reply to questions you didn’t fully understand.

Don’t reply to questions you didn’t fully understand. You can and you should ask for the question to be repeated or explained better.

You can say: "I'm sorry. I didn't understand. Can you please repeat that/explain that better?"

When asked questions to which you don’t know how to reply.

When asked questions to which you don't know how to reply, there is only one answer: "I don't know".
Remember that your role is to tell what you know about what happened. Don’t make up a reply just to answer the question. Don’t assume and don’t give your opinion.
Testify to the facts that you saw, heard, know of or learned directly. Testimonies based on rumour or hearsay are irrelevant.

It is possible that you will be asked the same question more than once.

It is possible that you will be asked the same question more than once.
Try to answer it the same way.

It is only natural that you can’t remember all the details.

It is only natural that you can't remember all the details or that you can't recall some things accurately.

If this happens, stay calm and don’t be afraid to say "I don’t remember".

Forgetting some things that happened in the past is a natural memory process. This may be associated with the passage of time (very often, witnesses have to testify about something that happened many months or years ago) or with discomfort caused by recalling a negative life experience.

It is natural to feel afraid, nervous and tearful.

It is natural to feel afraid, nervous and tearful. Testifying is an experience that can make anyone anxious and frightened. Talking about the crime or answering questions about the crime you witnessed (or were a victim of) is not a pleasant task, because it forces you to remember things you would like to forget and ‘erase’ from your memory. One of the reactions that can occur is crying. Don’t feel ashamed about this. Your reaction will be understood, as it has already happened to many people in the same situation.

If you feel tired or overly nervous

If you feel tired or overly nervous, you can either request a break to go to the toilet or ask for a glass of water and a tissue.

Don’t be afraid of the defendant or let his/her presence inhibit you.

Don’t be afraid of the defendant or let his/her presence inhibit you.
Avoid looking at him/her while answering the questions.
Look only at the person asking you the question. If you'd rather speak without him/her being there, you can say so to the judge. If the judge thinks this is reasonable, the defendant may be removed from the room while you are speaking.

After you testify

After you testify, it is possible that the trial will proceed and that other witnesses will be questioned by the judge.
You can either stay and watch the rest of the trial or leave the court. You may not talk to other witnesses who haven't testified yet about what you know or what happened when you testified.

Remember that you are not responsible

Remember that you are not responsible for the court's decision about the defendant.
Carry out your role: tell what you know about what happened.
The decision as to whether or not to convict the person accused of committing the crime always lies with the judge.

If the defendant is acquitted

If the defendant is acquitted, it doesn’t mean that the judge didn’t believe your testimony.
Being acquitted is not the same as being innocent. It means that the evidence gathered and given at the trial was not sufficient (and valid) for the judge to make a sound decision about the defendant’s guilt.

After all the witnesses have testified

After all the witnesses have testified, the judge announces the day and time for reading the judgment. You don't have to attend, but you may if you wish.

If anyone threatens or intimidates you

If anyone threatens or intimidates you or tries to attack you after you testify, report it to the police immediately.
If someone has threatened or intimidated you or tried to attack you before you testify, then, besides reporting it to the police, you should also inform the court.

The witness isn’t being accused of anything

The witness isn’t being accused of anything: the witness hasn’t committed any crime. The only person being accused is the defendant.
The witness is there to help the authorities gather important information so that they can make the right decisions.

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