The Criminal Process

It is natural for participation in a judicial process to cause anxiety and raise some questions. The victim will want to know what will occur, what to do, and what to expect in response from the State.

Below you'll find a brief description of various phases of the process. We'll try to answer, in a simple and concise manner, questions like:

“How to report a crime?”,
“How is the investigation conducted?”,
“What happens during a trial?”,
“What is an appeal?”,
“What is restorative justice?”,
among others.

The process can be lengthy and involves numerous participants. Here you can better understand who is who in the criminal process.

The process described applies only if the individual who committed the crime is 18 years or older. If the crime was committed by a child or teenager under 18, a different type of measure is applied, called a juvenile offence, in which sanctions (socio-educational measures) can be applied with one goal: to educate the young person for life in society in accordance with legal rules.

The Crime

Based on how the criminal process begins and some aspects of its development, offences can be classified into crimes and misdemeanours:

A crime is intentional (doloso) or, in some cases, negligent (culposo) behaviour resulting in the violation of penal norms – found in the Penal Code or in separate laws – that aim to protect and safeguard legal goods fundamental to society's survival, such as life, freedom, physical and psychological integrity, sexual self-determination, the environment, consumers, the Democratic State of Law, public faith, public health, property, among others.
Misdemeanour offences are less severe penal infractions defined in specific law (link).
The main difference between crimes and misdemeanours is the penalty that can be imposed in response to the delinquent behaviour. To learn more about this, read the introduction to the penal code law (link).

Crimes are divided into public penal action crimes (unconditional or conditional) and private ones.


Unconditional Public Penal Action Crimes
These are crimes where it is sufficient for the Public Prosecutor's Office (link) to become aware of the occurrence by any means to initiate the criminal process, i.e., the process begins regardless of the victim's wishes and can be reported by anyone. Examples include homicide, rape, domestic violence, abuse, racial insult, and robbery. They correspond to most of the crimes provided for in the Penal Code and in special legislation.

Conditional Public Penal Action Crimes
Crimes where the process begins only after the victim of the crime files a complaint. That is, the prosecutor or attorney general can only initiate the process if the victim expresses their wish to do so within six months. Examples of conditional public penal action crimes include fraud, light bodily harm, threats, stalking, risk of venereal contagion, violation of commercial correspondence, theft of common property, and breach of secret.

It is crucial to consider that for these crimes, mere notification of the facts to the police or the Public Prosecutor's Office is not enough. The law requires the victim's authorisation, called representation, without which even the police investigation cannot begin. The representation can be made in writing or orally (recorded by the competent authority). 
After six months from the date of the events (or from learning about the author if unknown), decadence operates, and the author of the fact can no longer be punished.

Private Penal Action Crimes 
The process begins only at the initiative of the victim, who must file a criminal complaint within six months through a lawyer or public defender. Filing a police report or asking a lawyer to initiate a police investigation does not meet the legal requirement. Only the victim can file an action against the perpetrator and request the application of a penal sanction. If this is not done, decadence occurs, and the author of the fact will not be held responsible for the act committed. Examples of private penal action crimes include insult, slander, defamation, violation of copyright, and abandonment of animals on someone else's property.

It is important to note that the power of attorney requires specific powers to propose a criminal complaint against a concrete and specific fact for which a response from the State is sought.


Note: What to do to report a crime
The complaint, or criminal complaint, is always the first step in the criminal process. Only through the complaint or criminal complaint can the penal process begin. The police report, in most offences, allows the police authority to initiate the police investigation through an ordinance, and at the end of the investigations, a penal action is proposed. However, as we have seen, in some cases, it is not enough, such as in crimes of conditional public penal action or private penal action (link to 2.1). Other ways to start a criminal investigation include the victim's request through a lawyer or a requisition from the Public Prosecutor's Office or the Minister of Justice.


Generally, the events should be reported to the authority of the location where the crime occurred or was intended to produce its effects (in the case of an attempted crime). As Brazil is a Federal State, the Federal Constitution assigns certain crimes under the jurisdiction of the Union, typically those committed against the federative entity or its parastatal entities, leaving the States with residual jurisdiction. In most cases, crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the State Common Justice.

Events should be reported to one of the following authorities:


Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP)

Southeast Region: 
São Paulo: link; Victim Support, Conflict Analysis and Resolution Project (AVARC): ou link
Minas Gerais: link
Rio de Janeiro: link
Espírito Santo: link

South Region: 
Rio Grande do Sul: link
Santa Catarina: link
Paraná: link

Central-West Region:
Goiás: link
Mato Grosso: link;
Mato Grosso do Sul: link
Distrito Federal: link

North Region:
Acre: link
Pará: link;
Rondônia: link
Amazonas: link
Amapá: link
Roraima: link
Rondônia: link
Tocantins: link

Northeast Region:
Maranhão: link
Ceará: link
Rio Grande do Norte: link
Paraíba: link
Pernambuco: link
Piauí: link
Alagoas: link
Sergipe: link
Bahia: link

Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office: link

Military Public Prosecutor’s Office:  link
Labor Public Prosecutor’s Office: link


Judicial Police (PJ):

Southeast Region:
São Paulo: link
Minas Gerais: link;
Rio de Janeiro: link;
Espírito Santo: link;

South Region: 
Rio Grande do Sul: link;
Santa Catarina: link;
Paraná: link;

Central-West Region:
Goiás: link;
Mato Grosso: link;
Mato Grosso do Sul: link;
Distrito Federal: link;

North Region:
Acre: link
Pará: link;
Rondônia: link;
Amazonas: link;
Amapá: link;
Roraima: link;
Rondônia: link
Tocantins: link;

Northeast Region
Maranhão: link;
Ceará: link;
Rio Grande do Norte: link;
Paraíba: link;
Pernambuco: link
Piauí: link
Alagoas: link
Sergipe: link
Bahia: link


Military Police: dial  190

Municipal Civil Guard: dial 153


Any of these authorities are obliged to accept all reports and requests presented to them, even if the crime was not committed within their territorial jurisdiction or, in the case of the police, the investigation does not fall under their responsibility. Regarding military crimes or complaints related to labour issues, the Military Public Prosecutor’s Office or the Labor Public Prosecutor’s Office may be contacted.

In some cases, or regarding certain crimes, complaints can alternatively be made by dialling 100 or via the link.

You can request a police report or a term of circumstances even if you don’t know who committed the crime. It is then up to the authorities to investigate and try to identify the perpetrator.

In public prosecution crimes, such as homicide, robbery, and domestic violence, the victim is not required to file a complaint. Anyone who is aware of the crime can report it, and this is enough for the Public Prosecutor’s Office to initiate proceedings, even against the victim’s will. If you intend to report a crime you are aware of but, for fear of retaliation, for example, you wish to conceal your identity, you can do it anonymously, although it is usually preferable to identify yourself, so you can later be called to cooperate with the investigation. In more serious cases, where there might be a risk to your life or physical integrity, you can always ask the authorities to preserve your identity in the proceedings by keeping it confidential (link).

For other crimes, whether they are conditioned public prosecution crimes or private prosecution crimes, such as fraud, insult, or stalking, the victim must authorise the criminal prosecution (representation) or file the criminal complaint within 6 months.

What happens after filing the complaint? To learn more, click here.

Why It’s Important and How to Do It

If you have been a victim of a crime, it is very important to report it to the authorities. By doing so, there is a higher probability that the person who committed the crime will be apprehended, held accountable, and prevented from repeating the same act, either to you or to others. In many states, you may not even need to go to a police station in person. If you reside in Alagoas, Amazonas, Amapá, Bahia, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Roraima, Sergipe, or Tocantins, you can report it through the virtual police station of the Ministry of Justice and Citizenship  (link). You can also do it through your specific state's platform (São Paulo: link; Minas Gerais: link; Rio de Janeiro: link; Espírito Santo: link; Rio Grande do Sul: link; Santa Catarina: link; Paraná: link; Goiás: link; Mato Grosso: link; Mato Grosso do Sul: link; Distrito Federal: link; Pará: link; Rondônia: link; Maranhão: link; Ceará: link; Rio Grande do Norte: link; Paraíba: link; Pernambuco: link; Acre: link.

Furthermore, reporting the crime can be essential to exercise certain rights, such as those related to insurance or compensation. Few people know that the Public Prosecutor's Office can request the establishment of moral, psychological, or material damages in the criminal action itself, provided there is evidence of their occurrence. It is crucial that when reporting a crime to the police, you inform the officer about the emotional or material losses suffered. For example, in the case of a stolen cell phone, if you have the receipt, the judge can establish in the sentencing the duty to compensate for the loss suffered. If you had hospital, medical, or psychological expenses, it's good to detail this circumstance. Changes in your daily routine can also guide the judge when determining the duty to compensate while sentencing.

Reporting a crime to the authorities is also essential for statistical purposes, general prevention, or the implementation of specific actions that promote security in certain cases and locations. In other words, criminal law exists not only to punish but also to establish the state's obligation to develop preventative policies against crime and victimisation. Certain groups or collectives may be more vulnerable to certain crimes, requiring state intervention to eliminate or reduce the risk of victimisation.

The crime report ("denunciation") is mandatory for police entities and officials regarding all crimes of which they become aware while performing their duties.

If you want to talk to someone before filing a report, victim support volunteers (link) from the Pró Vítima Institute are available to inform and advise you.

Several reasons may make you hesitant to report a crime:

"It wasn't that important."
Even a less severe crime can cause disturbance and disruption. Authorities are aware of this and should treat your report seriously.

"It's embarrassing."
You may be ashamed to report the crime, which often happens in cases of sexual violence or domestic violence. Authorities should handle these situations with sensitivity and not pass judgment on you.
Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, or race, being a victim of a crime can be traumatic.

"The authorities don't care."
Authorities have many cases on their hands and may not handle yours as quickly as you would expect, but your case will receive due attention. They may not always be able to identify or apprehend the person responsible for the crime, but they have a duty to try.

"It's over, and I wasn't affected by what happened to me."
If the crime had little impact on you, all the better. Some people can handle these difficult situations well and act as if nothing happened, even when they have suffered serious crimes. However, if you don't report it, the authorities won't have the opportunity to try to penalise the person who committed the crime, and they may repeat the act. The next victim may not be as capable of overcoming the effects of the crime.

"I'm worried about what will happen next."
It's normal to feel apprehensive about going to the police, giving statements, and then going to the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Judiciary to be heard. However, don't forget that you can have support throughout the entire process. No matter what you decide, you have the right to be supported. Even if you don't report the crime you suffered, it's very important to talk to someone about what happened to you and how you feel and get all the help you need.


What to do to file a report:

In general, the events that occurred should be reported to the authorities in the location where the crime was committed, that is, where the crime produced or should have produced its effects (in the case of attempted crime). As Brazil is a Federal State, the Federal Constitution establishes certain crimes as the competence of the Union, usually in cases where they are committed against the federal entity or its para-state entities, with state competence being residual. In most cases, crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the state common justice. The events should be reported to one of the following


Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP)  

Southeast Region:
São Paulo: link; Victim Support, Conflict Analysis and Resolution Project (AVARC): ou link
Minas Gerais: link
Rio de Janeiro: link
Espírito Santo: link

South Region:
Rio Grande do Sul: link
Santa Catarina: link
Paraná: link

Central-West Region:
Goiás: link
Mato Grosso: link;
Mato Grosso do Sul: link

Distrito Federal: link

North Region:
Acre: link
Pará: link;
Rondônia: link
Amazonas: link
Amapá: link
Roraima: link
Rondônia: link
Tocantins: link

Northeast Region:
Maranhão: link
Ceará: link
Rio Grande do Norte: link
Paraíba: link
Pernambuco: link
Piauí: link
Alagoas: link
Sergipe: link
Bahia: link

Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office: link

Military Public Prosecutor’s Officelink
Labor Public Prosecutor’s Officelink


 Judicial Police (PJ): 

Southeast Region:
São Paulo: link
Minas Gerais: link;
Rio de Janeiro: link;
Espírito Santo: link;

South Region:
Rio Grande do Sul: link;
Santa Catarina: link;
Paraná: link;

Central-West Region:
Goiás: link;
Mato Grosso: link;
Mato Grosso do Sul: link;

Federal Districtlink;

North Region:
Acre: link
Pará: link;
Rondônia: link;
Amazonas: link;
Amapá: link;
Roraima: link;
Rondônia: link
Tocantins: link;

Northeast Region:
Maranhão: link;
Ceará: link;
Rio Grande do Norte: link;
Paraíba: link;
Pernambuco: link
Piauí: link
Alagoas: link
Sergipe: link
Bahia: link

Military Police: dial 190
Municipal Civil Guard: dial 153


Any of these authorities are obliged to accept all reports and requests presented to them, even if the crime was not committed within their territorial jurisdiction or, in the case of the police, the investigation does not fall under their responsibility. Regarding military crimes or complaints related to labour issues, the Military Public Prosecutor’s Office or the Labor Public Prosecutor’s Office may be contacted.

In some cases, or regarding certain crimes, complaints can alternatively be made by dialling 100 or through the link.

You can request a police report or a detailed term of circumstances even if you don’t know who committed the crime. It is then up to the authorities to investigate and try to identify the perpetrator.

In public prosecution crimes, such as homicide, robbery, and domestic violence, the victim is not required to file a complaint. Anyone who is aware of the crime can report it, and this is enough for the Public Prosecutor’s Office to initiate proceedings, even against the victim’s will. If you intend to report a crime you are aware of but, for fear of retaliation, for example, you do not want to reveal your identity, you can do it anonymously, although it is usually preferable to identify yourself so you can later be called to cooperate with the investigation. In more serious cases, where there might be a risk to your life or physical integrity, you can always ask the authorities to preserve your identity in the proceedings by keeping it confidential (link).

For other crimes, whether they are conditioned public prosecution crimes or private prosecution crimes, such as fraud, insult, or stalking, the victim must authorise the criminal prosecution (representation) or file the criminal complaint within 6 months.

What happens after filing the complaint? To learn more, click here.

The Police Inquiry

Once the incident report ("complaint") is made, a police inquiry is initiated, starting the investigation process. In some cases, the Public Prosecutor's Office itself investigates, in which case we are dealing with a criminal investigative procedure. Criminal investigation comprises a set of actions aimed at determining the existence of a crime, identifying the perpetrator and their responsibility, and discovering and collecting evidence within the scope of the legal process.

This initial phase of the process called the inquiry phase, is usually carried out by a judicial police authority. The police officer in charge presides over the police inquiry under the supervision of the Public Prosecutor's Office. This phase is not considered a judicial phase itself but has an administrative character. Despite its administrative character, precautionary measures can be requested from the Judiciary in cases where the Constitution and the law require it. For example, the police officer cannot conduct wiretaps without prior judicial authorisation. Prior judicial permission is also necessary for searches and seizures.

During this phase, the police officers responsible for the investigation will gather evidence, which includes:

  • Interviewing the victim, the defendant/suspect, and witnesses.
  • Examining the crime scene for evidence.
  • Conducting personal or photographic identifications, which means asking the victim or a witness for a detailed description of the person who committed the crime, inquiring whether they had seen them before and under what circumstances, and possibly showing them a person's photo or a photo lineup to check if they can recognise the person as the one who committed the crime.
  • Seeking expert opinions, such as a ballistics expert who analyses the bullet's trajectory, a psychologist who assesses the suspect's personality, a medical professional who evaluates physical injuries, etc.
  • Requesting relevant documents (e.g., reports from the local health unit where the victim received assistance, call logs made by the defendant, etc.).


After the victim is heard, it is normal for some time to pass before receiving information about the case's progress. The inquiry phase can last from several weeks to several months, depending on the amount of evidence to be obtained and the complexity of the investigation. During the investigation, it may even be necessary to interview the victim more than once, although it is not recommended. If you want to know how the process is proceeding, the victim should contact the police officer in charge of the investigation, their lawyer in the case of private criminal actions, or the representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office, provide the case number, and ask if they can provide some information.

The victim should cooperate with the authorities whenever requested and inform them of anything that may be useful for the investigation.

If there is a risk of the defendant fleeing, a risk to the obtaining and preservation of evidence of the crime, a risk to public order, and/or a risk to economic order, to the criminal procedural instruction, or to ensuring the enforcement of criminal law, pretrial detention may be applied. Without these requirements, the suspect or defendant may respond to the proceedings in freedom, with, if necessary, alternative precautionary measures other than detention.

What happens at the end of the investigation? To find out more, click here.

Forensic Medical Examinations (Forensics)

Forensic medical examinations of crime victims are medical assessments integrated into the judicial system, aimed at verifying marks on the victim's body that have been produced by the inflicted violence, such as scratches, bruises, wounds, hematomas, or other injuries, and the search for traces, biological or not, on their body and/or in their clothing and objects that may have been left or used by the perpetrator of the crime, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, skin, hair, fibres, etc.

Forensic medical examinations may also assess the psychological damage caused by the crime, such as emotional or behavioural changes in the victim resulting from the traumatic event.

The performance of forensic medical examinations on a crime victim is very important because they can constitute evidence of significant value in the criminal process. In addition to their usefulness in the judicial domain, by collecting evidence of the violence committed, forensic medical examinations can also play a relevant role in the victim's recovery from the violence and the crime(s) experienced, serving as a reassuring and reparative moment.

If you need more information about the importance of forensic medical examinations and how they are conducted, the Pró Vítima Institute can help.

In cases of sexual crimes, you can go to the Judicial Police, which, in addition to conducting urgent procedures, should refer you, if necessary, to a local health unit and/or the Institute of Legal Medicine for diagnosis and treatment of the victim and/or evidence collection. If you go directly to a local health unit because you have suffered a sexual crime or an assault that caused injuries, you may be seen by an emergency room doctor. If the victim is a woman, the health unit has 24 hours to report the fact to the competent authorities (link). If it is a child or adolescent in the context of domestic and family violence, anyone who becomes aware of the fact has a duty to report it to the competent authorities (link.).


At the end of the investigation, the judicial police organ sends all collected evidence to the Public Prosecutor's Office, which will decide whether or not there are sufficient indications that the defendant committed the crime:

  • If the Public Prosecutor's Office believes there is enough evidence, the defendant is formally accused. In the indictment endorsement, the Public Prosecutor's Office will identify the defendant, outline the actions they allegedly committed, specify the accused crime, and indicate the evidence intended to be presented at trial.
  • If the Public Prosecutor's Office concludes insufficient evidence, it promotes archiving. Unfortunately, not all cases are resolved. Sometimes it’s impossible to identify the perpetrator, or there isn't enough evidence for the prosecution. Currently, victims cannot disagree with the archiving since Article 28, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Procedure Code has its effectiveness suspended by ADI 6305 (link). If the victim has new evidence or wants to suggest actions that haven't been taken, they can submit a request to the member of the Public Prosecutor's Office who decided to archive the process, asking them to indict the defendant or continue the investigation, presenting new evidence to be considered. In cases involving multiple crimes, the defendant may be accused of only some, with the process archived for the others. A case archived due to lack of evidence can be reopened if new relevant evidence emerges.
  • There is a third possibility: if the defendant has no previous convictions and a good record, the Public Prosecutor's Office may offer a non-prosecution agreement, provided that the minimum penalty does not exceed four years and the crime wasn’t committed with violence or serious threat to a person. The defendant must compensate the victim for the suffered damages and comply with a pecuniary penalty or community service, provided they fully and detailedly confess to the actions. Although victim participation isn’t foreseen, some locations hold restorative sessions between offender and victim (victim-offender conference). Therefore, the victim can express interest to the member of the Public Prosecutor's Office conducting the process, also indicating losses resulting from the criminal act for compensation purposes. Refer to Article 28-A of the Penal Procedure Code (link) for more on this subject. This isn't applicable in cases of domestic and family violence against women and offences under the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court.


Among the opportunities given to the defendant, there's also the conditional suspension of the process. With the judge's agreement, the process is suspended for two years, and the defendant must comply with one or more obligations (e.g., compensating the victim, donating a certain amount to the state or private social solidarity institutions, performing public interest services, not residing in certain places, not contacting specific people, appearing monthly in court to inform and justify their activities, not leaving the district for more than eight days without judicial authorisation, etc.). If these obligations are met during the suspension period, the process is archived. The provisional suspension of the process can only be applied to crimes punishable with a minimum prison sentence not exceeding one year, and it requires the agreement of both the judge and the defendant, with the victim’s consent not being necessary, even if they act as a supporting prosecutor. If the defendant is prosecuted for another crime within these two years, the benefit is revoked, and the process continues. To understand more about the benefit, refer to Article 89 of Law n. 9.099/95 (link).

In the case of less severe crimes, called minor offensive potential, the procedure is different: after receiving the police deed and if the investigated individual is a primary offender, a preliminary hearing is scheduled (Article 72 of Law n. 9.099/95). For private prosecution crimes and public prosecution crimes conditional to representation, an agreement with the victim extinguishes the punishability, regardless of its nature (forgiveness, compensation, etc.). If no agreement is reached, the Public Prosecutor's Office offers a penal transaction that, if accepted and complied with, extinguishes the process. The victim's absence at the preliminary hearing implies tacit renunciation, leading to the extinction of the process.


This phase is usually mandatory since Brazil adopts the accusatory system, requiring evidence produced during the inquisitorial phase to be confirmed in court, granting the defendant the right to adversarial proceedings and full defence (due to the legal process). Since the investigation phase doesn’t allow for adversarial proceedings, all indicative evidence is returned to the competent judge, who will evaluate them freely and with justification. The instruction phase typically begins with an indictment offered by the Public Prosecutor's Office, except in cases of private criminal action where the crime report is presented by an attorney duly appointed by the victim or a public defender if the victim cannot afford to hire an attorney (link).

Exceptions to the instruction or accusatory phase include the non-prosecution agreement in cases where the perpetrator is a primary offender, the crime was committed without violence or serious threat to a person, and the minimum penalty attributed to the crime does not exceed four years. Mandatory repair of the victim's damage is required. Ultimately, a contract is signed between the Public Prosecutor's Office and the perpetrator that, if fully complied with, grants the perpetrator the extinction of punishability. If the agreement is breached, an indictment is offered, and the criminal process begins with the defendant's citation.

Another exception is the civil agreement reached between the victim and the perpetrator or the penal transaction offered by the Public Prosecutor's Office in private criminal action crimes or public criminal action crimes conditional to representation under the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court (crimes with a maximum penalty not exceeding two years).

Thus, the instruction phase is a stage for discussing the formulated criminal charge (accusation), during which the Public Prosecutor's Office, the supporting prosecutor, the victim in private criminal action crimes, and the defendant can present evidence that confirms or refutes those obtained during the inquiry or criminal investigation phase, such as witnesses or documents.

During this phase, a criminal judge will analyse the evidence collected during the inquiry, as well as any other evidence they deem necessary or that is now presented and considered relevant. It is crucial to attend the hearing, even if you have already been heard during the investigation phase, as the judge cannot convict based solely on evidence obtained during the inquiry. The victim collaborates with justice in this phase, testifying and identifying the accused (one or more persons). This understanding results from the jurisprudential interpretation of Article 155 of the Penal Procedure Code (link).

Thus, the trial judge hears the victim when summoned by the prosecution.
The instruction phase ends with an oral debate, led by the presiding judge, with the participation of the Public Prosecutor's Office, the defendant and their attorney, and the victim and their attorney (if the victim is accredited as a supporting prosecutor or if it’s a private criminal action crime). Exceptionally, in complex cases, the judge can convert the debates into the presentation of memorials by the parties (written pieces), setting a deadline.

At the debate's end, the judge decides whether or not to convict the accused for the charges described in the accusation. The condemnatory or acquittal sentence can be appealed.

If the crime under trial is intentional against life (homicide, infanticide, abortion, participation in suicide), the instruction phase is divided into two stages. Firstly, a preliminary analysis is conducted before the knowledgeable judge, and if it proceeds, the jurors of the Jury Court will decide on the defendant’s conviction or acquittal. Subsequently, the judge will determine the applicable penalty in the event of conviction. In summary, if there is disagreement with the decision of the knowledgeable judge, both the Public Prosecutor and the victim (if serving as an assistant) can appeal. It is crucial to remember: in private criminal actions, except for those initiated by a beneficiary of legal exemption, no act or diligence will be performed unless the judicial fee is collected under penalty of distribution cancellation (art. 806 of the CPP).


At the end of the instruction phase, the knowledgeable judge delivers a decision called a sentence. A criminal sentence is a judicial act that determines the conviction or acquittal of a defendant, concluding a process through the judge's structured argumentation, who oversees the case. The trial is a hearing taking place in a courthouse.

The trial aims to determine if there's enough evidence to convict the defendant of the accused crime and, if so, impose a penalty. The trial also debates and decides if the victim is entitled to compensation for minimal damages caused (art. 387, section IV of the CPP).

Scheduling the Instruction, Debates, and Trial Hearing

Upon receiving the case, the judge schedules the trial date and summons, by mandate, everyone who must participate in the trial. Mark this date in your calendar or another place where you record important events to ensure you don't forget to attend. Many hearings are held virtually through sent participation links. Ensure you're in a quiet location, without others present, and with a good internet connection. If you're unfamiliar with the sent platform, seek assistance from the judge's clerk or someone you know at least half an hour before the scheduled start of the act. Check if your microphone and camera are on. If you can't participate virtually, you can always go to the courthouse where the hearing will be held. Inform through the same email in which you received the participation link or directly go to the judicial registry at least one hour before the act begins.

Generally, the judge must summon the parties at least 48 hours before the hearing, under penalty of nullity (entry 117 of the Superior Court of Justice). In practice, this term is not always observed. It's recommended to participate regardless of when you were summoned and, if unable, preferably inform in writing the reason for your absence to allow the Public Prosecutor's Office to decide whether to insist or give up on your hearing. Your presence is crucial as the victim, as you have more details about the incident.

Your statement during the police phase doesn't replace your statement before the judge. The Victim Statute (PL n. 3890/2020) seeks to change this situation, avoiding repetitive testimonies, but it hasn't been approved by the National Congress yet.

Preparing for the Trial

It's perfectly normal to feel anxious and insecure before the trial. This situation is new and unfamiliar. Therefore, preparation is crucial. Pró Vítima can assist you in preparing.

If possible, visit the courthouse a few days before to familiarize yourself with different areas like the hearing room or the waiting room for witnesses, and if possible, attend a trial or part of it. If your trial is virtual, ensure you can participate (link).

On the day of the hearing, you'll likely encounter the defendant, along with their family and friends. Prepare for this eventuality by establishing procedures to adopt: try to avoid them, don't respond to provocations, and if you feel threatened, inform the justice official or the police officer in the courtroom immediately. If possible, have someone accompany you. Regardless of your role in the process, including as a witness, you have the right to be accompanied by a lawyer.

During the trial, not only the judge but also the Public Prosecutor's Office, the defendant's lawyer or public defender, and your lawyer, if you have one, will ask you questions. They'll likely request maximum details because the more information the court has, the better the decision. The judge expects you to recount, in your words, what happened to you. Therefore, organize in your mind all the information you consider important to convey in court. You may even bring some notes, such as the dates of the most relevant facts. However, it's normal not to remember some details, especially if some time has passed since the crime occurred. In these cases, don't be afraid to say "I don't remember".

Remember: If you were a victim of a crime, attending the trial can be a crucial part of your recovery. Crime is a behaviour neither accepted nor tolerated by society, and the trial plays a fundamental role in conveying this message: those who break the law must be held accountable and face the consequences.

What Happens If You Miss the Trial

Don't miss the trial! Your presence is vital! Your knowledge of what happened is essential and can determine the judge's decision. Your absence will delay the process or hinder the discovery of truth and the administration of justice.

If you know in advance that you can't attend, you must inform the court in writing and provide justifying elements for your absence at least five days in advance. If something unexpected happens that prevents your attendance, like an illness or transportation delay, inform the court as soon as possible, and within three days, present elements proving this impediment, like a medical certificate or a statement from the transportation company verifying the incident.

Being at work isn't a valid justification since the court issues attendance certificates that justify absence from work.

If you miss your trial without justification, you'll have to pay a procedural fine. The court may also order the police to detain you and bring you to court.

Furthermore, there's a risk that the crime remains unpunished due to a lack of evidence concerning the events since your statement during the police phase doesn't replace your statement during the judicial phase.

Where and When to Appear

If you received a summons to attend a trial, make sure to appear at the indicated date and location. Plan your trip to the courthouse in advance, familiarising yourself with its exact location and estimating travel time. For location finding, click here.

Arriving a few minutes early is advisable, as security checks can sometimes be time-consuming, especially in larger courthouses. It might also take some time for you to find the exact location where you need to be. If in doubt, ask a courthouse employee; they will guide you to the appropriate location. Once there, wait for the court officer to commence roll-call. Respond when your name is called so your presence is recorded. You then need to wait until the officer calls you into the courtroom. If you are participating as a witness, you may only enter the courtroom when it’s your turn to testify. You cannot attend the trial before your testimony but can stay afterwards unless the case is confidential.

Trials might sometimes be delayed either because not all participants have arrived or because the previous trial has not yet concluded. In any case, be prepared to wait. Bringing a book, newspaper, magazine, or music to entertain yourself during the wait is a good idea.

Who Can Attend

Trials are usually public, meaning anyone can enter the courtroom and watch.

However, there are exceptions, such as cases involving particularly vulnerable victims. Attendance isn't usually allowed in these trials for the protection of the victim’s privacy.

The Courtroom

The trial hearing is presided over by a judge (link to 3.2). In cases related to crimes against life, the court consists of a judge and 25 jurors, with seven forming the so-called Sentencing Council.

The following individuals are also present in the courtroom:

Courtroom for videoconferencing

The Victim’s Role in the Trial

Victims may participate in the trial as either assistants or witnesses.
As an assistant, the victim plays a more active role in the trial, supporting the Public Prosecutor in presenting evidence of the facts laid out in the charges. Their lawyer can, for instance, present evidence, question the defendant, witnesses, and experts, and make closing arguments. In this capacity, the victim can express their views on the presented evidence and whether the defendant should be convicted, even suggesting specific penalties that should be applied.

Victims, when questioned by the Public Prosecutor regarding the consequences of the criminal offense (e.g., trauma, changes in routine, expenses incurred due to the crime), will advocate for their right to compensation. If they have a lawyer, this representative may question the defendant, witnesses, and experts regarding aspects related to the compensation claim, particularly about the damages the crime caused to the victim. Regardless of their role, the victim's presence is crucial.

The victims' family members might not be called as witnesses but might participate as informants to the court. Moreover, they usually can attend the trial, with a few exceptions.

The Beginning of the Trial

The trial can only be postponed under exceptional circumstances, such as the absence of a crucial participant or the need to gather last-minute evidence. Ideally, once the trial begins, it should proceed without interruption until a conclusion has been reached. However, since many individuals might need to be heard – including defendants, witnesses, experts, or other participants – the judge might adjourn the trial and schedule its continuation for another day.

If the defendant fails to appear after being notified, the trial can still commence without their presence, and the verdict will be communicated to them later. If the defendant couldn't be notified, for instance, because they changed their residence without informing the court, the process would be suspended while authorities attempt to locate them. Under these circumstances, the defendant is declared absent, leading to various negative consequences as the trial proceeds without them.

The trial begins with the victim's testimony (if they are on the witness list), followed by the testimony of prosecution witnesses, defence witnesses, and finally, the defendant's interrogation. Afterwards, the parties can suggest additional evidence. If no new evidence is required, the trial moves to the debate phase. The Public Prosecutor and lawyers are then given the opportunity to analyse the evidence presented. Based on the evidence, the Public Prosecutor may request either a conviction or acquittal.

The Evidence

To allow for the most direct engagement of the judge and other participants with the evidence, all of it is presented during the hearing of instruction, debates, and trial. This means that the defendant is interrogated, and witnesses are examined even if they have already been questioned during the investigation. Experts may be called upon to clarify their findings, and documents, like medical reports, are reviewed again.

The first to testify is the victim. The judge begins by asking identification questions, which the victim should answer, and then the Public Prosecutor takes over, asking the victim to recount the facts. It’s common for the prosecutor to interrupt occasionally for clarification or elaboration on certain points. After the prosecutor, it's the lawyers’ turn to question the victim. Questions from the defendant’s lawyer might feel uncomfortable as they could challenge the victim's experiences. It's important to remember that the defendant's lawyer is there to defend their client’s interests. Stay calm and answer as objectively as possible. If any question is inappropriate, the judge will intervene to maintain order during the trial.

Next, the witnesses are examined. Prosecution witnesses are first questioned by the Public Prosecutor, then by the lawyer acting as the assistant prosecutor, and lastly by the defendant’s lawyer. Defence witnesses are initially examined by the defendant’s lawyer, followed by questions from other participants. Witnesses under 16 are questioned through a designated intermediary, who can relay relevant questions from other participants. Witnesses are entitled to reimbursement for expenses incurred due to their participation in the trial.

The defendant may be removed from the courtroom during a witness's testimony if their presence could inhibit the truth or if the witness is a minor. Witnesses under 14 are not required to testify as they don't take an oath (according to Article 208 of the CPP). For those above 14, testimonies are carried out carefully, with all questions addressed to the judge, who then forwards them to a psychologist responsible for conducting the testimony.

If there's a need to hear from experts, this usually happens after the examination of the witnesses. The defendant (accused) is the last to be heard. They have the right to remain silent, as self-incrimination is not obligatory. However, statements made earlier in the process can be used and evaluated by the judge. If the defendant chooses to testify, believing it benefits their defence, the judge asks whether the allegations are true. The defendant can then present their version of the events, with the judge occasionally interrupting for specific questions. Afterwards, the prosecutor and lawyers are allowed to ask questions.

Even if the defendant confesses, this admission must be considered within the context of all the evidence presented. All oral statements during the trial are recorded, so if there’s an appeal, the Court of Justice can listen to the recordings without summoning participants again.

Besides these testimonies, other evidence, like documents, must be included in the process to be considered.

During the trial, the defendant and/or witnesses might say things that disturb or displease you, especially if you know these aren’t true. Stay calm and whenever it’s your turn, speak the truth without getting upset.

How the Trial Ends

Once the evidence is presented, the judge asks the defendant about their personal, family, professional, health, and economic situation. The responses can influence the decision, such as the defendant’s economic status when determining fines or alternative penalties to imprisonment.

Then, the Public Prosecutor, the assistant's lawyer, the civil parties' lawyer, and the defendant’s lawyer can make their closing arguments, suggesting what they believe has been proven and proposing penalties if they think the defendant is guilty.

If the case is straightforward, the judge may announce the decision immediately. However, it's more common for the judge to review the case and publish the decision a few days later. You can always track the case's progress by requesting access from the clerk's office, regardless of the case's stage.

The Sentence

The sentence is the conclusion of the legal process. It consists of the facts the judge deems proven, those not proven, and the corresponding evidence that the judge relies on. If the defendant is convicted, the sentence includes the penalty applied and the elements considered for its determination. If there is a compensation claim made by the prosecution, the judge will decide on the required compensation as well.

For cases judged by a criminal judge, the sentence comprises three parts: a report, rationale, and decree. In cases judged by the Jury Court, the decision is made through a simple majority vote by the seven jurors on the Sentencing Council. Following this, the judge pronounces the sentence based on the jurors’ decision and sets the applicable penalty. If there is an appeal by any of the parties, the final act in the process is called a judgment, as it is made by a collegial body of at least three appellate judges.

It is possible that the defendant may be convicted of some charges while being acquitted of others or even acquitted of all charges.

In the case of conviction, the primary penalty may be deprivation of freedom (effective, substitute, or suspended), alone or combined with a fine.

All participants in the process have the right to receive a copy of the sentence, which should be sent to the victim by the judge without a request. If this doesn't happen, it can be requested from the court clerk's office. Generally, anyone can read the sentence except for cases under judicial secrecy.

The Appeal

If parties disagree with the sentence or judgment, the defendant, assistant, or civil party—through their respective lawyers—and the Public Prosecutor can file an appeal.

The appeal is submitted in writing to the court, where the trial occurred within 30 days. In complex cases, the deadline for filing an appeal may be extended by an additional 30 days.

The appeal should outline why the parties disagree with the sentence, either regarding the evaluation of the presented evidence and/or the application of legal norms.

Parties affected by the appeal are notified to respond within 30 days.

The appeal, responses, and other relevant elements of the case are then sent from the trial court to the appellate court or Court of Relation. In some cases, for example, when only legal matters are contested, and the applied penalty exceeds five years of imprisonment, the appeal is sent directly to the Supreme Court of Justice.

After review by the appellate court's judges and Public Prosecutor, a hearing may be scheduled, where all parties affected by the appeal can express their opinions orally. After the hearing, or in some days, the appellate court announces its decision.

Appeals can be filed not only against the sentence but also against other decisions made throughout the process. When no more appeals can be filed against a decision—either because the deadline has passed or because the law does not allow further appeals—the decision is considered final.

Special Processes

Criminal Procedural Law is a set of principles and rules governing criminal prosecution, being a branch of public law. The criminal process is divided into common and special. Typically, all processes follow the common procedure. However, special procedures are applied where specified by the Penal Procedure Code or other special legislation. For instance, special procedures exist for Jury Trials, crimes of responsibility by public officials, and against honour, as well as in other situations outlined in special legislation like the Drug Law (Law no. 11.343/06).

The common procedure is further divided into Ordinary, Summary, and Summarised:

  • Ordinary Procedure
  • Summary Procedure
  • Summarised Procedure


Ordinary Procedure

Used for crimes punishable by imprisonment of four years or more. Allows examination of up to eight witnesses for both prosecution and defence. Appeals are sent to the competent Court of Justice or Federal Regional Court.

Summary Procedure

Used for crimes punishable by imprisonment of less than four years. Allows examination of up to five witnesses for both prosecution and defence. Appeals are also sent to the competent Court of Justice or Federal Regional Court.

Summarised Procedure

Applied for crimes punishable by imprisonment of no more than two years. It permits the examination of up to three witnesses for both prosecution and defence. Appeals are reviewed by the Recourse College, composed of first-degree judges.




Always tell the truth:

 Narrate everything that transpired with all the details you can recall. That's your role as a witness.

Listen attentively:

Pay close attention to the questions asked and respond only after they have been completely stated.

Take your time:

Think carefully about the question posed and your response to it.

Answer calmly and slowly:

Respond to each question in a clear, calm manner using short sentences.

Don’t be afraid to disclose everything:

Share all details without fear. Every piece of information can be crucial to understanding what happened.

Limit your answers:

 Respond only to the questions asked without providing information on subjects you are unfamiliar with.

Don’t answer questions you don’t understand:

Request clarification or repetition of questions you didn't comprehend.

If you don’t know the answer:

Simply respond with “I don’t know.” Stick to facts you are aware of and avoid speculating or making assumptions.

Repeated questions:

You might be asked the same question multiple times; try to answer consistently each time.

It’s normal to forget:

If you can’t remember certain details, calmly admit it without fear.

It’s normal to feel nervous:

 Testifying can be anxiety-inducing. It’s normal to feel fear, nervousness, or even the urge to cry.

If you feel tired or overly nervous:

Request a short break if necessary.

Don’t fear the defendant:

 Avoid looking at the defendant while answering. If necessary, request their removal during your testimony.

Remember, you are not on trial:

Witnesses are not accused of anything; your role is to aid in information gathering.

Expect uncomfortable moments:

 You might face unsettling questions or statements during the trial; maintain your composure and stay calm.

You’re not responsible for the final decision:

Your role is to share what you know, while the judgment is the judge’s responsibility.

The hearing might continue:

After your testimony, the hearing may continue with other witnesses. You may choose to stay or leave.

After all testimonies:

The judge will inform everyone present about when the sentence will be read.

In case of acquittal:

 Acquittal doesn't imply the judge didn't believe your testimony; it means there wasn't enough evidence for a conviction.

If you are threatened or assaulted:

Report any threats, intimidation, or attempts of aggression to the police immediately. If this happens before you testify, inform the police and the court.

I was a victim of a crime, an epidemic, a public calamity, or a natural disaster: consequences or reactions

Vulnerable Victims The Victim's Human Rights The Criminal Process Who's Who in the Criminal Process

Support Services  Support Network  Glossary Site Map

Top Map Exit