Making a complaint in Portugal

by Dr. Eduardo Serra Jorge [email protected]

In his new column, Lawyer Eduardo Serra Jorge from lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., will be addressing legal issues affecting foreign residents in Portugal.

Victims of crime and injuries or of civil liability often do not know what to do. The emotional reactions are varied and the person may fear that the submission of a criminal and/or civil complaint is a lengthy process and with no apparent results.

When and where to complain?

In the case of a criminal complaint, it must be made within six months from the date of the crime at the following locations:

• Public Prosecutor of the court area where the crime was committed;

• Department of Investigation and Penal Action (DIAP) in Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra;

• Through the Electronic Portal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The authorities in general have a legal obligation to forward the complaint to prosecutors, who are:

• Public Security Police (PSP);

• Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR);

• Judiciary Police (PJ) in the case of crimes punishable with more than three years;

• Institutes of Forensic Medicine of Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, offices and forensic hospitals where there are forensic experts.

What do you need to be able to file a complaint?

At any of the places where you can file a complaint, it is necessary to fill out a form with the following information:

• Time and date of the crime;

• Identification of the complainant;

• Location of occurrence;

• Description of the complaint;

• Identification of the defendant (if known);

• Identification of witnesses.

If you choose to make a complaint through the internet at the Electronic Portal Complaint provided for that purpose by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, authentication of the signature of the complainant as it was when the complaint was filed at the police station is required.

The civil claim must be presented on the criminal procedure. Only exceptionally, it can be presented separately.

The victim that has indicated the intention to present a civil claim will be notified of the accusation or of the indictment order and needs to present the civil claim within 20 days.

When it was not indicated the intention to present a civil claim, the victim can present the claim within 20 days after the notification to the Defendant of the accusation or of the indictment order.

In case of non-contractual civil liability, which occurs when someone, intentionally or with negligence, unlawfully infringes the right of other or any legal provision aimed to protect others’ interests, the injured party may present a civil complaint in the Civil Court of the area where the illicit act occurred.

The rule is that the victim has to prove the guilt of the aggressor.

Compensation will be determined after the damages that deserve the protection of the Law are considered.

The right to compensation needs to be exercised within three years from the date the victim has knowledge of the illicit act, even if he/she does not know who the person liable is and the total extension of the damages.

Dr Eduardo Serra Jorge is founding member, senior partner and CEO of lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., created in 1987. He can be contacted at his Faro office at Gaveto das Ruas Pedro Nunes e José de Matos, 5 R/C, on telephone +351 289 829 326, Fax. +351 289 829 327 or email [email protected] Alternatively, please visit www.esjmjgadvogados.com