What is the course of criminal proceedings?

Initiating criminal proceedings

Criminal proceedings is initiated by filing of a criminal complaint. The police will also initiate criminal proceedings if they learn from other sources that a crime has been committed.

A criminal complaint can be filed by anyone, in any police station, prosecutor’s office or court. You may file such complaint if you are a victim or if you learn that someone around you has become a victim, has suffered damage or has committed a crime. The authorities (i.e. the police, the prosecutor’s office, the courts) cooperate with each other and, if necessary, forward your complaint to the competent authority that will deal with it in more detail.

A criminal complaint can be filed in writing, verbally into the official register or electronically with an authorized electronic signature. It should include a description of the act that occurred, your contact details and, if you are the victim, a description of the damage caused to you, together with information if you are seeking damages from the perpetrator. The criminal complaint must not be anonymous, but, at your request, the police officer or prosecutor will not specify your personal data in the file.

Once the criminal complaint has been filed, the police officer or prosecutor will give you a written confirmation which shall indicate when the complaint was filed, the authority which received it and brief description of the subject of the complaint. If you file a criminal complaint verbally into the official register, you will receive a copy of the record upon your request.

The police will then begin investigating your criminal complaint and determine if the act occurred, what happened and under what circumstances the act occurred. They begin collecting evidence related to the act. You are not obliged to provide evidence, but it is your right to provide any evidence known to you. If you have any evidence available (such as documents, receipts, SMS communication, photos, recordings), it is advisable that you submit them or report the names of witnesses who saw or heard what happened (or describe them if you do not know their name).

Initiating criminal proceedings FAQs

A criminal complaint cannot be withdrawn. The police are obliged to investigate the complaint and find out what happened. However, for some crimes, your consent is required for the criminal proceedings to continue. You can revoke this consent at any time and the criminal proceedings will then be terminated, without the perpetrator being convicted or you receiving compensation for damages.

You do not have to file a criminal complaint directly. However, if you are a victim of crime or a witness, your statement about what happened is crucial. Therefore, you will be summoned to answer questions about the crime.

It is important that you state everything you remember in the criminal complaint. You don’t have to know what the crime is, all you have to do is describe in your own words what happened. You can think about it and write down any details you remember. You can bring these notes with you.

In the case of sexual violence, you have the right to have a person of the same gender question you. Should it be necessary to repeat the questioning, you have the right to have such questioning be conducted by the same person.

You have the right to be accompanied by a confidant at all times. They may be anyone, a friend, a family member, or an acquaintance. It is important that you feel safe with your confidant and they can support you. They primarily provide emotional support and cannot interfere in the course of the proceedings. Under certain circumstances, the police may not allow a confidant to be present during some questionings (if they disrupt the course of the proceedings) and then you have the right to choose another confidant.

You do not need legal representation to file a criminal complaint. Legal aid can be provided by victim support organisations, an intervention centre for victims of domestic violence or, under certain conditions, the Centre for Legal Aid. In the following stages of criminal proceedings, a lawyer / an attorney may be appointed at the state’s expense.

After filing a criminal complaint…

… the police officer can summon you again and ask you additional questions. However, they must always treat you with respect and try to explain everything to you so that you understand it. Before the questioning, they will inform you about your rights as well as about the obligation to tell the truth and not to keep anything secret.

In some cases (especially for particularly vulnerable victims), the police officer is required to record your questioning on camera and so that you do not have to comment repeatedly on the events. This ensures you will not need to describe the events in detail again, avoiding the unnecessary trauma of reliving the crime all over again.

The phase following the filling of a criminal complaint is called the pre‑prosecution proceedings. The police should decide within 30 days after the filing of the criminal complaint in one of the following ways:

    • The police officer may make such decision if the act cannot be classified as a crime or a misdemeanour.
    • If the act is not a criminal offence and the police officer considers it a misdemeanour or other administrative offence, they have to refer the complaint to the competent authority. The filed complaint is then reviewed and, if necessary, misdemeanour proceedings will be initiated.
    • These are mainly cases where the perpetrator has died, is not criminally liable by age (i.e. they were not 14 years old at the time the act took place) or if the victim has not given consent to the criminal proceedings.
    • If there is no reason for refusal, referral, or deferral of the criminal complaint, the police officer initiates criminal prosecution.

After filing a criminal complaint… FAQs

You may file a complaint against a decision made by a police officer to reject, refer, or defer the complaint with the issuing officer within 3 business days after delivery or notification of such decision. The prosecutor will then review your complaint if the police officer does not decide to change the decision in the way you demanded.

If you have reported a crime or are a victim of a crime, the police officer is obliged to deliver all decisions to you. This decision will be delivered to the address you provided in the criminal complaint.

Minutes are taken during questioning, which is a transcript of what was said. This means that it will list every question and all your answers. These minutes will be presented to you for signing; you have the right to study them, propose corrections, request a copy and, if necessary, refuse to sign them.

It is important that you tell the truth about everything you know and keep nothing secret. You must not lie during questioning; otherwise you could be prosecuted for perjury.

It is crucial for a proper criminal investigation that you give a statement during questioning as a victim. However, you have the right to refuse to attend the questioning if the perpetrator is your family relative or if by your statement you could potentially incriminate yourself as the perpetrator. The police officer is obliged to inform you about this right and to warn you of the consequences if you decide not to attend the questioning.

In this case, you are obliged to excuse yourself and state the reason why you cannot come (e.g. confirmation from your doctor). Your employer must allow you to go for questioning.

The summons, including information on where and when you are to arrive, will usually be delivered to you by post, but you can also be summoned by a phone call.

Preparatory proceedings

This phase of criminal proceedings follows the police officer’s decision to initiate criminal prosecution. The person who committed the crime does not need to be known to initiate prosecution; it is sufficient that an act, the police officer classifies as a crime, occurred.

The primary objective is to obtain and secure all evidence for use in further proceedings. Such evidence serves to clarify what happened, to whom, what damage was caused and who the perpetrator was. Therefore, it includes an investigation or a shortened investigation. The type of investigation that takes place depends on the seriousness of the crime committed.

If there is a sufficiently reasonable suspicion that the offence was committed by a specific person, the police / prosecutor will press charges against this person. This person is then referred to as the accused. The court can decide whether the accused will be released or taken into custody for the rest of the proceedings. In some cases, the court may issue a restraining order prohibiting the accused to contact you (which includes phone calls, SMS and emails) in order to protect you or your loved ones. It is important for your safety that you ask if this is an option in your case.

At this stage, you may be summoned as a witness, and you may be questioned by the accused or his or her lawyer. They are obliged to treat you with respect and dignity, you may be asked questions only after you have been allowed to make your statement and after the police have asked you their questions. You have the right to ask the police / prosecutor to exclude the accused from attending your questioning if you do not wish it or if you are uncomfortable in their presence.

Preparatory proceedings are supervised by a prosecutor. If you have any doubts as to the police officer’s conduct or you believe they are taking too long to act, and you do not have any information about the developments in your case, you may request the prosecutor to review the police officer’s conduct. The police officer is obliged to submit this request to the prosecutor, who will examine it and then inform you about the results of the review.

Preparatory proceedings FAQs

A claim for damages can only be filed until the end of the investigation. It is important that you do not miss this deadline and file this claim by your stage at the latest. Victims of violent crime can claim compensation from state after criminal proceedings have been initiated. The compensation thus paid will then be recovered from the perpetrator by the Ministry of Justice. It is important that you claim damages from the perpetrator even if you apply for compensation at the Ministry of Justice.

For the purposes of most tasks (e.g. review of the file, submission of various proposals), you can be represented by a representative who will do them on your behalf. The representative does not have to be a lawyer and can be the same person as your confidant. A confidant is there to provide you with emotional support.

You have this right through the whole criminal proceedings. If the police officer considers that they have already gathered all the evidence and want to end the investigation, they are obliged to allow you to review the case file and submit proposals for further investigation.

You have the right to have all important decisions delivered to you. You also have the right to contact the police at any time, who will provide you with information on the developments of the proceedings and what actions they have taken.

If you do not understand Slovak language very well, you have the right to an interpretation and a translation of decisions into a language you understand. The costs of interpretation and translation are borne by the state.

You have right to:

Prior to indictment…

The preparatory proceedings can end in several ways, and the prosecutor issues a decision for every one of them. You will always be informed about any decision made.

These decisions include:

    • If a police officer based on an investigation finds that the offence did not occur, is not a criminal act or a misdemeanour, or the accused is not criminally liable, they shall suspend the criminal prosecution. If it is determined that the act was not committed by the accused, criminal prosecution will only be terminated against this person. The criminal proceedings itself will continue and the perpetrator will be searched for.
    • If it is found that the act is not a criminal offence but a misdemeanour, the matter will be referred to the competent authority.
    • This is only possible in the case of certain offences and provided that the accused confessed to the offence, compensates for the damages they have caused and such manner of ending the case is considered sufficient (e.g. given the severity of the crime, its circumstances, and the manner in which the accused conducts themselves).
    • If the accused has confessed to the crime and compensated victim for the damages, it is possible (for some crimes) that a settlement can be reached between the accused and the injured party/victim. The settlement must be approved by the prosecutor. As an injured party, you have the right to propose the conclusion of a settlement and its conditions, but you do not have to agree to a proposal made by the accused, nor to conclude the settlement.
    • If the accused has confessed to committing a crime, the prosecutor may initiate proceedings for conclusion of an agreement on guilt and punishment. The prosecutor will notify you and, as the injured party, will invite you to participate in the process. If you do not come to the prosecutor’s office on the set day and do not excuse yourself, the prosecutor may agree with the accused on damages for you. The prosecutor is obliged to ensure that your claim for damages is fairly represented. If an agreement on guilt and punishment is approved, the accused will be obliged to pay the agreed damages.
    • The prosecutor will file an indictment in court if the criminal proceedings have not ended in any of the previous ways. In the indictment, they shall state a description of the act, its classification as a criminal offence, who is the accused/perpetrator, and indicate the evidence. Court proceedings is initiated by the filing of an indictment. The indictment will be delivered to you together with a request to suggest which evidence should be presented in the court hearing.

Prior to indictment… FAQs

Will these decisions be delivered to me?

All decisions concerning criminal proceedings will be delivered to you. If you have been represented by a representative or a lawyer, these decisions will be delivered to them.

I do not agree with the delivered decision, what should I do?

You have the right to file a complaint within 3 business days after receiving one of the mentioned decision. Neither a decision approving the settlement nor a decision of the court approving an agreement on guilt and punishment can be challenged.

Court proceedings after indictment

The court reviews the delivered indictment to verify that all conditionsfor filing it were met, decides which evidencewill be presented in the court hearing (e.g.whether the witnesses will be summoned orhis or her statement will only be read) andsets a date for the main hearing.

When reviewing the indictment, the court may also decide to return the case to a previous stage (preparatory proceedings), or to terminate criminal prosecution. If the court finds that it would be possible to conclude a settlement, the court may propose it and subsequently approve it if you agree to settlement.

The main hearing is the most important part of the criminal proceedings. Witnesses are questioned again, evidence (various documents) is submitted and read, or an expert may participate at the hearing.

As the injured party, you have the right to attend the main hearing and propose evidence to be considered by the court. Likewise, you can comment on the evidencethat has already been presented. Once thecourt has declared the end for submitting ofevidence, it is no longer possible to submitfurther or new evidence.

At the end of the hearing (a number of hearings may be held) you have the right to deliver a final statement. Its content is notprecisely defined, so it is up to you what youdecide to say in it. You can bring notes withyou. If you have a representative or a lawyer,they may deliver the final statement on yourbehalf.

Once the final statements from all parties have been delivered, the court takes a recess to deliberate and decides whether a crime has been committed, what kind of crime the act is and whether the defendant is guilty. The court’s decision will then be made public and will be delivered in writing. The court will also decide on the claim for damages, i.e. determine the amount and how the perpetrator is obliged to pay it. If it is not possible to determine the exact amount of damages in criminal proceedings, the court will refer you to civil proceedings. In this case, you do not bear the costs of civil proceedings.

Court proceedings after indictment FAQs

When awarding damages, the court will also decide on the reimbursement of your costs related to filing your claim for damages in criminal proceedings. This means that the court will decide what costs the perpetrator is obliged to reimburse, including the costs associated with appointing a representative/ lawyer.

If you testified at the hearing as a witness, you have the right to reimbursement. This covers both the reimbursement of necessary expenses (e.g. travel costs) and lost wages. The reimbursement must be claimed within 3 days after questioning/hearing took place and the exact amount of reimbursement has to be calculated within 15 days.

You have the right to appeal against the decision in the part concerning the claim for damages or concerning the costs of the proceedings. Depending on the type of decision, it is possible to file an appeal (within 15 days), a complaint (within 3 business days) or a protest (within 8 business days). The delivered decision will state exactly what remedy (appeal, complaint or protest) is available to you, by when and where you can file it.

All decisions that are issued (judgement, resolution, order) will always be delivered to you as an injured party. If you have appointed a representative, it will be delivered directly to them.

Yes, the president of the senate is obliged to take the necessary measures to prevent you from coming into contact with the accused. You can also request that the accused not be present during your testimony.

After the court proceedings…

The end of the court proceedings and the conviction of the perpetrator is usually followed by enforcement proceedings. The perpetrator is obliged to serve the sentence imposed on them by the court. The sentences range from a financial penalty, imprisonment, home imprisonment, to a ban on attending public events. The court may also impose appropriate restrictions on the perpetrator, e.g. compliance with a restraining order.

The convicted perpetrator is obliged to reimburse you for the damages specified in the decision. If the convicted person doesnot fulfil this obligation after the decisionenters into force, you can enforce it through anexecutor. The executor will then perform theactions necessary to obtain your damages, e.g.by selling the convicted person’s property, ordeducting a portion of their wages.

However, as a victim / injured party, you have additional rights at the end of the criminal proceedings. These concern both your safety and compensation.

    • If you are a victim of a violent crime, you can apply to the Ministry of Justice for compensation from the state. Compensation is provided for health injury and, in the case of certain criminal offences, for non-pecuniary damages. The basic condition for applying for state compensation is that a criminal proceedings must be initiated and the results of the investigation must not raise doubts whether the victim suffered harm as a result of a crime. The application for state compensation may be filed with the Ministry of Justice repeatedly during the criminal proceedings (when new facts are discovered), but no later than within 1 year from the date of entry into force of the final decision in the criminal proceedings. The form and more detailed information on compensation can be found HERE.
    • You have the right to decide whether you want to be informed about the release or escape of the perpetrator from one of these facilities. Such information is primarily intended for your own protection should the perpetrator want to find you or threatens you loved ones. You can change this decision at any time and the police, the prosecutor and the court will take it into account. However, if your life or health are in danger, the police / prosecutor / court will inform you of the perpetrator’s release, or escape, even if you do not wish to be informed.
    • You have the right to professional help and support even after the criminal proceedings. If you still need psychological aid or assistance in exercising your rights as a victim, you have the right to receive such support.

After the court proceedings… FAQs

Can the perpetrator contact me after the criminal proceedings?

The perpetrator may find you or try to contact you during or after the criminal proceedings. The role of the police, the prosecutor’s office and the court is to prevent the perpetrator from endangering you again, and they are obliged to do everything possible to all possible threats. Contact the police if the perpetrator makes contact and it makes you uncomfortable. If the perpetrator threatens you, such threat is a crime and they may be sentenced again even more severely.

Is there some way to prevent the perpetrator from contacting me?

If you live in the same household as the perpetrator, the police can prohibit them from entering the premises for 14 days immediately after the police were called and / or a criminal complaint is filed. The perpetrator is then forbidden to enter the shared apartment or house. Subsequently, the police will instruct you about the possibility of filing a motion with the court to issue a restraining order, which may prohibit access to the same household for a longer period of time. It is also possible to file a motion for a restraining order against a perpetrator who does not live with you in the same household. The court may prohibit them from approaching your residence, workplace or any other place, or from contacting you in any way (including by phone or e‑mail).