What are my rights in criminal proceedings?
When a hate crime or hate speech is reported, it is decided whether to open a pre-trial investigation. If it is opened, the criminal proceedings begin. The law provides rights and protections for victims in this process.
- people who have suffered physical, material or non-material damage as a result of the offence;
- family members or close relatives of the person who died as a result of the offence, who have suffered physical, material or non-material damage as a result of the death.
Victim status is granted by a decision of a pre-trial investigation officer or prosecutor, or by a court order.
When you are recognized as a victim, you have the following rights in criminal proceedings:
Getting information. A pre-trial investigation officer or prosecutor may open a pre-trial investigation after receiving your complaint, statement or report of a criminal offence. You will be informed in writing.
You have the right to be informed about the status of criminal proceedings concerning you. You can waive this right unless your waiver would violate the rights of the suspect or accused person.
The pre-trial investigation officer or prosecutor must inform you of the arrest. You have the right to be informed of the suspect’s imminent release or escape from custody.
You also have the right to get the contact details of the official or prosecutor. These people should give you information about the case. If the pre-trial investigation is transferred to another body, you must be informed.
Getting legal aid. You have the right to state-guaranteed legal aid.
Have a representative. You have the right to have a representative who shall:
- protect your interests;
- make requests on your behalf;
- participate in the proceedings;
- help you exercise your rights under the law.
The authorized representative has the same rights as the party he represents.
Representatives may be the parents, adoptive parents, guardians, custodians or persons authorized by the institution which has the care or custody of the victim, whether minor or incapacitated.
Have an accompanying person. You have the right to choose who accompanies you in criminal proceedings.
Access to pre-trial investigation and case data. You have the right to have access to the investigation file (except for the personal data of the participants in the proceedings) at any time during the pre-trial investigation. You can make copies or recordings. The prosecutor has the right to refuse access to all or part of the pre-trial investigation. He can also prevent copies or extracts from pre-trial investigation material. The prosecutor’s refusal may be on the grounds that he considers that access could prejudice the success of the pre-trial investigation, or if the pre-trial investigation has been completed and an indictment is being drawn up.
Once the criminal case and indictment have been forwarded to court, you have the right to access additional material, extracts and copies of the case file.
Give evidence. Both sides in a case – the prosecution and the defense – have equal rights to give evidence and to participate in its examination. Evidence is data obtained in criminal proceedings and confirmed by a judge or court.
Make requests. You have the right to make various requests. For example:
- a request for access to the pre-trial investigation file;
- a request for partial anonymity;
- a civil claim (seeking damages);
- a request for the admission of evidence;
- a request for further evidence. You must include with your request the new evidence needed to establish the circumstances;
- a request to change the facts from those set out in the indictment to materially different facts. You can make such a request in writing before the end of the evidentiary hearing;
- a request for a change in the qualification of the offence charged in the indictment. You can make such a request in writing before the end of the evidentiary hearing;
- a request to call new witnesses or experts;
- other requests.
The right to special protection measures: the assessment of special protection needs is carried out by the pre-trial investigation officer or the prosecutor at the time of the first interview. To minimize the negative impact of criminal proceedings, you may be subject to the following special safeguards:
- in cases of discrimination or hatred based on sex, you can be interviewed by someone of the same sex;
- the court may order you to be present for part of the hearing. In this case, you may not be questioned at the trial. Your statements to the pre-trial judge will be read out or audio-visually recorded;
- you may be anonymous or partially anonymous in order to protect your life, health, freedom or property. Under this measure, your appearance in court can be organized on condition of anonymity. You may also be questioned at the hearing with the presence of acoustic and visual barriers that prevent you from being identified. If this is not possible, you will be questioned in a place other than the courtroom, without the presence of the other participants. You may be excluded from the hearing if your appearance would seriously endanger your life, health or freedom or that of your family members and close relatives.
The right to anonymity or partial anonymity applies where:
- there is a real risk to the life, health, freedom or property of the victim, a witness or their family members or close relatives;
- the testimony of a victim or witness is important in criminal proceedings;
- the victim or witness is taking part in proceedings for a very serious, serious or petty crime.
Right to request recusal. You have the right to challenge a pre-trial investigation officer, prosecutor, pre-trial judge, judge, court clerk, translator, expert and specialist and have them removed. Article 58 of the Criminal Procedure Code sets out the grounds for recusal. The recusal must be made in writing, stating the grounds on which it is based.
Participate in court proceedings.
Get interpretation and translation. Criminal proceedings are conducted in the official Lithuanian language, but if you don’t speak it, you must have the right to participate in the proceedings in your mother tongue. You can do the following in your native language:
- make statements;
- give evidence;
- make requests and complaints;
- attend court hearings
You have the right to an interpreter. The documents in the file must be translated into your mother tongue or into another language you know. You also have the right to make a reasoned request for a translation of other important documents in the case, if this is necessary to enable you to take an active part in the proceedings.
Appeal against actions and decisions. You have the right to appeal against acts and decisions of criminal prosecutors, judges or courts:
- You can appeal against the actions and decisions of a pre-trial investigation officer to the prosecutor who organizes and leads the pre-trial investigation. The pre-trial investigation officer must forward the complaint, together with his or her explanations, to the public prosecutor within one day of receiving the complaint. If the prosecutor refuses to uphold your complaint, you can appeal against his refusal to a higher prosecutor;
- You can appeal against the prosecutor’s actions and decisions to a higher prosecutor. If a senior prosecutor refuses to uphold your complaint, you can appeal against his refusal to the pre-trial judge. It should be noted that some of the decisions taken by the prosecutor are not subject to appeal: (a) to instruct a pre-trial investigation body to conduct a pre-trial investigation or to carry out individual steps in such an investigation; (b) to instruct a public prosecutor or a pre-trial investigation body from another area to conduct a pre-trial investigation or to carry out individual steps in such a pre-trial investigation; (c) to set up an investigation team; and (d) to instruct the prosecutor to carry out or direct a pre-trial investigation. Complaints against the actions and decisions of a pre-trial investigation officer or prosecutor may be lodged while the pre-trial investigation is ongoing. The public prosecutor and the pre-trial judge shall examine complaints within ten days of receipt;
- You can appeal against the actions and rulings of the pre-trial judge to a higher court;
- You can appeal against decisions of lower courts to higher courts. Appeals against the ruling of the district court are lodged with the Regional Court, and against the order of the regional court – with the Court of Appeal of Lithuania. You can do this within seven days of receiving the ruling. The appeal must be lodged with the court that made the order, which must notify the higher court of the receipt of the appeal within three days and file a statement of defense within 14 days.
Appeal against a court’s ruling or verdict. You have the right to appeal against a court’s verdict that has not become final. In your written appeal, you must set out the substance of the part of the judgment under appeal, the grounds of appeal and the reasons for the appeal, and the grounds on which you base your claims concerning the admission of evidence, the investigation, the procedure to be followed in the case, or any other matters. The appeal must be lodged with the court of appeal, via the court that handed down the judgment, within 20 days of the date of delivery of the judgment.
Make a closing speech. You have the right to make a closing speech at the end of the inquiry into the evidence. When all the participants in the trial have made their closing speeches, you have the right to react and comment on what was said in the closing speeches.
Getting reparation or compensation. You have the right to get reparation or compensation for the damage caused to you as a result of a crime.
The suspect or accused person may voluntarily compensate you for the damage you have suffered at any time during the proceedings. Once a statement of compensation has been received, the civil action is not opened, but is discontinued. In cases where the accused person does not have the means to pay for the damage, the state may provide compensation for the damage.
If you have suffered material or non-material damage as a result of a criminal offence, you have the right to bring a civil action against the suspect or accused person. It will be heard together with the criminal case. The civil action must state the specific amount of compensation claimed and the reasons for it (you must provide written, physical or other evidence to prove the amount of damage).
You can file a civil action at any time during the proceedings, but no later than the start of the evidentiary hearing. The action must be brought before a pre-trial investigation officer, prosecutor or court. You have the right to withdraw your claim before the court goes into the courtroom to deliver its verdict.
Under the Law on Compensation for Damage Caused by Violent Crime, you may also be entitled to compensation for the costs of litigation (proceedings) and enforcement. These costs are awarded by the court. You must apply for compensation for damage caused by a violent crime no later than 10 years after the judgment awarding the damage caused by the violent crime takes effect. The amount of compensation is set by the court. The Ministry of Justice receives and examines claims for compensation.
If you live away from the place of call (when you are summoned to see a pre-trial investigation officer, a prosecutor, a judge or a court), your travel expenses are reimbursed. You must also be paid the cost of renting an accommodation and a daily subsistence allowance. Reimbursement is subject to the submission of supporting documents.
You may also be reimbursed or paid for the time you spend with a pre-trial investigation officer, prosecutor, judge or court. You must submit a written request and documents proving the costs incurred. The request must be approved by the pre-trial investigating officer, the prosecutor or the judge or court hearing the case.
The compensation is paid by the pre-trial investigation body or prosecutor’s office conducting the pre-trial investigation.
- Civil Procedure Code of the Republic of Lithuania
- Law on Compensation for Damage Caused by Violent Crime.
- 25 April 2003 Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania No. 524 On the Approval of the Description of the Procedure for Determination and Payment of Amounts to be Paid to Witnesses, Victims, Experts, Specialists and Interpreters in Criminal Proceedings and in Administrative Misdemeanors Proceedings.
About victims’ rights. In Prokuraturos.lt.
Your rights and criminal proceedings. In Nukentejusiems.lt.