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Victims' rights - by country

Poland

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Poland

How and where can I report a crime?

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

What are my rights as a witness?

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

Can I receive legal aid?

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

More information

How and where can I report a crime?

If you have suffered from a crime you can report it at the nearest police station or the local public prosecution office. You can also call the emergency number 112 or the police hotline 0 800 120 226.

There is no obligatory form you have to follow but you can use the form the police will provide you with or download it at http://www.pokrzywdzeni.gov.pl/.

You can report orally or in writing. You can also ask another person to report the crime for you. Only for crimes prosecuted upon complaint you have to file a so-called “request for prosecution” otherwise the authorities will not be able to start proceedings.

The information you have to include in your report is:

  • your name and surname;
  • the names of your parents and the maiden name of your mother;
  • date and place of your birth;
  • your address;
  • your unique registration number if you have one (for Polish citizens this number is called PESEL) and
  • the series and number of your ID.

The information about the person reporting the crime is important for the authorities, because the false accusation of someone else before the authorities is a criminal offence in itself.

There is no deadline for reporting the crime, but after a certain period of time the authorities will not be able to start proceedings. This period is specified in the law and is different depending on the crime. In cases prosecuted under private prosecution, the crime will not be punishable after a year of the time you are aware of the identity of the offender but not longer than after three years of the date of the crime.

There are some cases, where the crime can be prosecuted only if you file a complaint. In these cases the authorities can only act when they receive a so-called “request for prosecution” by the victim. The prosecution depends on such a request for prosecution in many cases where the offender is your relative s well as in other cases where other reasons justify the restriction of the powers of the law enforcement authorities to protect your interests as a victim of crime. The police and the other law enforcement authorities will inform you when it is necessary to file a request for prosecution.

There are also some cases where you have to bring charges yourself, although the public prosecutor can also start proceedings if it is in the interest of the public. These cases, called “private prosecution cases”, include some less serious offences like defamation or light bodily injury. The complaint, called “private indictment”, has to include your name and information about the offender and the crime. If you have some evidence you need to attach it to the complaint. The complaint has to be in writing and submitted directly to the court. In practice, you can also submit a written or oral complaint to the police and the police will forward it to the court. There is a state fee of 300 Zloty (approximately 80 Euro) you have to pay before the submission of the complaint. If the offender is found guilty he/she will be ordered to reimburse you for this fee.

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

Within six weeks of you submitting your report the police or the public prosecutor will get back to you and inform you whether there will be an investigation or not. You can also check what is being done on your case by going to the police station or calling by phone. To receive information you have to state the date of submission of the report and the name of the police officer that has accepted it.

If you do not receive information about what has been done on your case within the period of six weeks after you have reported the crime you can submit an appeal to the public prosecutor. The appeal has to be in writing. You have to indicate that you have reported the crime to a police officer or a public prosecutor and point out that six weeks have passed and you have not received any information about the case.

Your case will receive a reference number when the authorities start an investigation. You can use this reference number to check the progress of the proceedings.

If the public prosecutor refuses to start an investigation you can appeal against his/her decision to the court. Even though the appeal is addressed to the court you have to submit it to the public prosecutor who will forward it to the court.

If the public prosecutor refuses to start proceedings in a private prosecution case you can appeal against his/her decision to the superior public prosecutor. Again, you have to submit your appeal to the public prosecutor who has issued the refusal.

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

When you report the crime, you can present any additional information or evidence you believe is important for the investigation. You are not obliged to prove anything related to the crime. The public prosecutor and the police are responsible for the collection of evidence. Only if the crime is prosecuted upon your complaint will you have to prove the offender’s guilt.

During the investigation you can:

  • check all the documents in the case file and make copies on your own expense;
  • attend all investigative actions with the permission of the public prosecutor, and always - actions that will not be repeated during the trial;
  • request the replacement of the public prosecutor or the police officer in charge of your case if you doubt his/her impartiality or objectiveness;
  • appeal to the superior prosecutor against any decision of the public prosecutor in charge of your case if you are not satisfied with it;
  • make proposals and remarks orally or in writing (oral proposals and remarks will be included in the record and those in writing will be attached to it);
  • request the reading of the record in order to verify its content;
  • request the collection of evidence and interrogation of witnesses (in particular witnesses that you think may not be able to testify during the trial).

These rights are also available to you if you are a close relative of the victim who has died after the crime.

If the offender is a minor, some of these rights may be restricted, e.g. you may not be allowed to attend the questioning of witnesses or to check all the documents in the file.

During the investigation you can use the assistance of a lawyer. If you cannot pay for his/her services you can apply for legal aid.

What are my rights as a witness?

The public prosecutor or the police officer may call you for an interview as a witness. If this happens you are obliged to appear before the police officer or the public prosecutor and answer their questions. If there is a substantial reason preventing you from going to the police station or the public prosecutor’s office you can ask to be interviewed at the place where you live. You can also ask to be interviewed through audio or video conference.

You can refuse to be interviewed as a witness only if the alleged offender is a close relative of yours. You can also refuse to answer particular questions if your testimony may lead to criminal prosecution against you or a relative of yours.

You will receive reimbursement for the expenses you have made in relation to your interview (e.g. travel and accommodation expenses).

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

If you are a child under 15 years of age your parents, guardian or another person taking care of you will be present during your interview.

If you have suffered from a violent or sexual offence you will be interviewed only once in the presence of the public prosecutor and a psychologist. Your interview will be taped and the record will be used during the trial so that you do not have to attend the court hearing.

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

When you report a crime the police or the public prosecutor will inform you about your rights and obligations in relation to the proceedings that will follow. Information about your rights during the trial will be provided at a later stage, when the public prosecutor brings the case to court.

You can also consult the special guide I am a Victim of Crime, What Next? The Victim of Crime Guide Book commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and made available in http format in Polish at the website http://www.pokrzywdzeni.gov.pl/.

Can I receive legal aid?

You can receive legal aid free of charge if you wish to have a lawyer but your income does not allow you to pay for his/her services. You can apply for legal aid before the public prosecutor in charge of your case. The public prosecutor will advise you what documents you need to present in order to prove the amount of your income.

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

If the offender is a dangerous person, the regional court can warrant the temporary detention of the suspect at the request of the public prosecutor or decide on other measures to control his/her behaviour (such as supervision by state authorities or private parties). Such a decision will specify the time limits of detention or the terms of other restrictive measures for the suspect.

If you are afraid for your or your relatives’ life, health or property you can ask the public prosecutor to keep your identity secret. In this case only the public prosecutor and the police officer (as well as the judge during the trial) will have access to your personal data. The offender and his/her lawyer will not be allowed to attend your interview. The records from the interview will be shown to them without revealing your identity.

You can also request that your home address not be disclosed. When you are asked to provide an address for further communication, instead of your home address you can provide another address where you can be contacted (e.g. you work address or the address of your lawyer).

In addition, the media are not allowed to publish your personal data or images without your prior consent.

If you are victim of domestic violence you may ask the public prosecutor to forbid the offender to contact you or approach the place where you live even when the offender has certain rights over this place.

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

You can receive medical assistance but you may be asked to pay for it unless you have a valid health insurance. Citizens of the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can benefit from the European Health Insurance Card.

If you need additional assistance (e.g. psychological counselling or social services) but cannot pay for them, you can approach state institutions of social and medical care or submit an application for financial support to the Foundation for the Support of Victims of Crime or other non-governmental organizations supporting victims of crime, in particular organizations participating in the Victim of Crime Support Network as detailed at the http://www.pokrzywdzeni.gov.pl/ website.

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

You can request or be invited to participate in a mediation procedure at any time during the proceedings. The decision whether to start mediation or not is made by the public prosecutor or the police officer in charge of your case. Mediation is possible only if both you and the offender agree to participate. If mediation is successful and you reconcile with the offender the court will approve your agreement and will close the case or will take the agreement into account when issuing the sentence.

In private prosecution cases the reconciliation procedure is a necessary element before the trial. Upon request and with the consent of the parties the court may substitute the reconciliation procedure with mediation. Generally, in private prosecution cases there are no pre-trail proceedings. However, a private prosecution case can be prosecuted by the public prosecutor is this is necessary for protecting the public interest. In this case mediation is also possible during the pre-trial proceedings.

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

After the completion of the investigation the public prosecutor will examine the collected evidence and will decide how to proceed with the case. The public prosecutor has three options:

  • to suggest the case to be closed;
  • to suggest to the court, with the consent of the offender, the imposition of penalty without a trial, if there is no doubt about the circumstances of the offence and the objectives of the proceedings can be achieved without holding a court hearing; or
  • to bring the case to court for trial.

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

If the public prosecutor decides not to start an investigation or to close the case without bringing it to court, you as a victim can appeal against the decision before the superior prosecutor. If the superior prosecutor does not satisfy your appeal it will be forwarded to the court.

If your appeal is successful, the court will order the public prosecutor to continue with the investigation. However, the public prosecutor has the right to close the case again. In this situation you can start a trial yourself by bringing charges against the alleged offender and thus becoming an auxiliary prosecutor. The deadline for bringing charges is one month after the public prosecutor has closed the case for a second time. A lawyer must write the document by which you will bring charges and start a trial. As an auxiliary private prosecutor you will have to prove the guilt of the offender during the trial.

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

If you are a foreigner who has suffered from a crime in Poland, you can benefit from all the rights explained above. In particular you can:

  • check all the documents in the case file and make copies at your own expense;
  • attend all investigative actions with the permission of the public prosecutor;
  • request the replacement of the public prosecutor or the police officer in charge of your case;
  • appeal against any decision of the public prosecutor you are not satisfied with;
  • make proposals and remarks orally or in writing;
  • request the collection of evidence.

If you do not speak Polish you can report a crime in any other language you speak. The police and/or the public prosecutor will take care of translation if such is necessary. You will also receive interpretation free of charge when you are called for an interview or when you attend other investigative actions performed by the police or the public prosecutor.

More information:

  • Code of Criminal Procedure (Kodeks postepowania karnego) – in Polish
  • Criminal Code (Kodeks karny) – in Polish
  • Act on Combating Domestic Violence (Ustawa o przeciwdziałaniu przemocy w rodzinie) – in Polish
  • Act on the Proceedings against Minors (Ustawa o postępowaniu w sprawach nieletnich) – in Polish
  • Act on the Press (Ustawa prawo prasowe) – in Polish
  • Internal Statute of General Public Prosecution Agencies (Regulamin wewnętrznego urzędowania powszechnych jednostek organizacyjnych prokuratury) – in Polish
Last update: 20/11/2018

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