The criminal police forces have a key role in ensuring that criminal proceedings proceed smoothly and this includes working closely with the judges and the Public Prosecutor Service.

Firstly, when the police become aware that a crime was committed because a complaint or a report was filed, or a police officer witnessed a crime, the police have a duty to inform the Public Prosecution Service as soon as possible so that it can initiate criminal proceedings. However, if there is a danger that relevant evidence might be lost or destroyed, then before informing the Public Prosecution Service, the police should urgently carry out all the necessary acts to prevent this from happening - for example, immediately apprehending the vehicle in which a murder was committed and which the suspect might want to hide or destroy in order to conceal any evidence.
It is for the police to pursue the investigation under the guidance of the Public Prosecution Service. It is the police that will gather evidence by examining the crime scene, questioning the victim, the defendant and the witnesses, obtaining documents, requesting the cooperation of expert witnesses, carrying out searches and placing phone taps, etc. The Public Prosecutor may of course take part in any of these. Indeed, some of these measures actually have to be authorised or even conducted by the Public Prosecutor or by the examining judge. Usually though it is the police that gather the evidence. The Public Prosecution Service may request the case file at any time to assess the progress of the investigation.

During the investigation, if the victim wishes to provide further information or find out about the case, he/she should contact the police officer in charge of the investigation. If the victim has been threatened or intimidated, or fears for their safety, they should report this to the police authorities.

In general, the investigation is conducted by one of the following three police forces:
the Public Safety Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, PSP), the National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR) and the Criminal Investigation Force (Polícia Judiciária, PJ). Occasionally, other authorities, such as the Immigration and Border Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF), the Maritime Police (Polícia Marítima) or officers from the different sections of the Criminal Investigation and Action Departmentsand of the Public Prosecution Service may carry out investigative actions.

Which of the police forces is responsible for carrying out the investigation?

The Criminal Investigation Force (Polícia Judiciária) is a police force with the only mission of working with the judiciary and the Public Prosecution Service in criminal proceedings.  It is a highly-specialised force and therefore investigates the most serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, sexual crimes, criminal association and terrorism, among others, or even more complex crimes such as corruption, many white-collar crimes, cybercrimes, etc.

The PSP and the GNR have jurisdiction for the investigation of all other crimes, that is, which are not reserved to the Criminal Investigation Force. In the case of burglary and theft from a shop, for instance, as this crime does not come within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Investigation Force, it will be investigated either by the PSP or the GNR depending on which of these has the territorial jurisdiction for the area where it was committed. Besides their criminal investigation powers, the PSP and the GNR are also responsible for maintaining public order, ensuring the safety of persons and property, and overseeing compliance with the road traffic code, among many others.

When the investigation is concluded, the police send the case file to the public prosecutor so that he/she can analyse the evidence gathered. If the case proceeds to trial, it is normal for the police officers who conducted the investigation to be called as witnesses. They will be asked about what they did during the investigation, the facts they became aware of and the evidence they gathered. In most cases of course the police officers did not actually see the crime but they do know a great deal about it and this information can help the court to find out the truth. Bear in mind that police officers cannot tell the court what the defendant, the victim or the witnesses said when they were interrogated during the investigation stage. Apart from a few exceptions, only what these people say at the trial can be used as evidence by the court.
If you think that a member of any police force has not respected your rights, you should report this to the commandant, commissar/superintendent or coordinator of the department where the situation you are reporting took place. You may also inform the General-Commandant or the National Directors.

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