The Public Ministry

The Public Ministry is an independent and autonomous institution comprised of a group of justice prosecutors with unity, indivisibility, and functional independence. Administratively, they are hierarchically organised, designated as Justice Prosecutors (Public Ministry of the States and Federal District), Republic Prosecutors (Federal Public Ministry), Labor Prosecutors (Labor Public Ministry), and Military Prosecutors (Military Public Ministry). They are responsible for exercising criminal action, defending legal order, democratic regime, diffuse and collective interests, homogeneous individual interests, and public and social assets (according to Article 127 of the Federal Constitution).

In a criminal process, the Public Ministry has various functions. Firstly, it is tasked with receiving news of facts (information pieces) or police inquiries and presenting charges. For more serious crimes, called unconditional public criminal actions, the victim is not required to file a complaint. Any person aware of the crime can file a complaint, which is sufficient for the Public Ministry to initiate the process, even against the victim’s wishes. For other crimes, the victim must file the representation (for conditional public criminal action crimes) or file the criminal complaint within six months of learning about the perpetrator; otherwise, the Public Ministry cannot open a process.

If the victim cannot file a representation for being under 18, sick, or any other reason, a close relative like a spouse, parent, or child can file the complaint. When the request is filed with the police, they must accept it, initiate a police inquiry, conclude investigations, and send it to the Public Ministry to open the process.

Next, the Public Ministry is responsible for overseeing the fairness of the investigation. Evidence is collected by police officers and overseen by the police chief, but the Public Ministry member can request necessary diligence since they are the recipients of the evidence obtained by the police. In more complex cases, the Public Ministry member initiates a criminal investigative procedure and directly participates in evidence collection, interviewing witnesses, requesting expert reports, and interrogating the defendant, among other roles.

At the end of the inquiry phase, the Public Ministry member evaluates the collected evidence and decides whether it’s sufficient to charge the defendant, that is, to take them to trial. For more information on this decision, click here.

In the subsequent phases—namely the instruction, debates, and judgment phases, the Public Ministry isn’t obliged to uphold or defend the accusation. During the trial hearing, the Public Ministry must prove the facts the defendant is accused of and will present the evidence: witnesses, experts, documents, etc. Objectivity and legality should lead the Public Ministry to request the defendant's acquittal if they believe the facts haven’t been proven.

Finally, the Public Ministry can also appeal a decision they disagree with. The Public Ministry is crucial in informing crime victims, initially providing information on support institutions and contacts. It must inform about the right to file representation or criminal complaints and what happens afterwards if the police authority hasn’t provided this information. It may also inform the victim about the possibility of seeking public defence if they can’t afford the process expenses and wish to be represented as an accusation assistant. The Public Ministry informs victims of violent crimes (like homicides, rapes, child sexual abuse, severe physical offences, etc.) and domestic violence victims about the possibility of requesting compensation. Lastly, the Public Ministry must ensure that the Judiciary informs victims, especially in cases where the defendant is particularly dangerous, of decisions or situations changing the defendant’s status, like parole or prison escape.

For more information on the right to information, please click here. The Public Ministry services are generally located in court buildings, and in some cities, they have their own headquarters.

Public Ministry members have a law degree, passed a public round of tests, acquired titles to join the career, and attended an adaptation course in their state or region. According to the Constitution, they are considered equivalent to magistrates for all purposes, following the European trend that often refers to them as Public Ministry magistrates. Therefore, they have the same rights and guarantees as judges.

If you believe a Public Ministry member has disregarded your rights, you should report this fact to the Public Ministry's Internal Affairs in your state or directly to the National Council of the Public Ministry.

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