How to Report a Crime So That It Is Investigated

In Czechia, as many as two-thirds of all criminal complaints are thrown out. How to file one properly? Who may lodge a criminal complaint? Which three facts do you need to know before you complain? Such questions are answered in today’s article.

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10 minutes of reading

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What is a criminal complaint?

Simply, it is any complaint that conveys a justified suspicion that a crime has been committed. No particular kind of offence needs to be named (slander, fraud and failure to pay child support are the most frequented delicts in Czechia), as the police or state prosecutor assess the report according to its contents, not its heading.

Most frequently reported crimes

The Ministry of the Interior published an interesting report on internal security and public order that maps crimes reported to the Czech police. It’s summed up by the following graph:

Where and how to submit a criminal complaint

A criminal complaint may be lodged at any station of the Police of the Czech Republic or at any state prosecutor’s office. It comes free of charge.

A complaint may be submitted:

  1. In writing – no standard form needs to be followed. Nonetheless, you ought to include the name of the person lodging the complaint, a detailed description of the offence along with the place and time of committing, the name of the suspect (if known), and ideally also of any witnesses. If you have any evidence, enclose it as well. We recommend sending the complaint as a recorded delivery.
  2. By word of mouth – report the crime at any local police force or state prosecutor’s office. Your report will be recorded in a protocol, which you’ll need to sign – prior to doing so, read it thoroughly and request a copy. The reporting person has the right to add or correct information in the protocol if they recall an important fact at a later time.

Bear in mind that the police aren’t obligated to inform you about the handling of your complaint. If you require a report, you must explicitly request one while lodging the complaint; then you must be informed within 30 days.

 

Tip: We recommend reporting directly at a state prosecutor’s office. Although your complaint will be forwarded, again, to the police, the office will run an internal check first, thus increasing the chances of a successful resolution.

Have justice done quickly and conveniently

The vast majority of crime reports are thrown out, which makes a solicitor’s assistance especially valuable. We’ll evaluate the adequacy of your complaint, as well as draft and submit it on your behalf.

How to draft a written criminal complaint

Reporting a crime follows the same rules as any other written request. Name the recipient (a particular police force or state prosecutor’s office) and the plaintiff. And, although it is possible to report anonymously, this option does have its cons, which we’ll discuss shortly.

Let’s demonstrate the contents of a proper criminal complaint on a fictional incident, in which your grandmother has been run down by a reckless driver on a pedestrian crossing.

The report should answer the following questions:

  • Where and when the incident occurred – in our fictional case, let’s state that the crime was committed on 11 Oct at around 2pm in the Prague 8 district on a zebra crossing in front of Bulovka hospital.
  • What crime was committed – you’re not expected to denominate a particular offence here. Simply write that serious harm was done to your grandmother by the driver of a Škoda Fabia, who ran her down at the given place and time.
  • How the incident occurred – Provide a more detailed description of the offence here. In our fictional case, we would state that while your grandmother was crossing the road on a green light, a car flew out of the bend at such a velocity that your grandma was unable to react. In addition, the offender fled the crime scene without providing any aid.
  • What are the known consequences of the offence – Here, ideally, you would enclose her medical reports describing the sustained injuries and estimated recovery time.
  • Information on the perpetrator – If possible, identify the offender. Naturally, you may also file a complaint against an unknown delinquent, on whom little or no information exists. In our fictional case, you’d give the vehicle’s plate number, provided that you were ready enough to notice it.
  • Information on the victim and any eventual witnesses – Identify the persons vital to the investigation. Your grandmother is the victim, and a Mrs. Horáčková is a random witness, so you would add her contact information as well.
  • Evidence and other facts of import – finally, you would enclose, e.g., a photograph capturing the offender’s vehicle, or point out the camera at the crossing that may provide additional evidence.

Your Attorneys Online advise: The evidence provided and the way your complaint is written are two prime factors determining whether or not the police or state prosecutor will disallow your complaint. Turn to us to minimize the risk of this eventuality. We’ll assess the adequacy of your complaint as well as draft and report it on your behalf.

Who may file a criminal complaint?

A crime may also be reported by persons other than the victim or the aggrieved. The sole important factor here is that you are aware of it. Also, some crimes must be reported (murder, grievous bodily harm, maltreatment of a person in care), otherwise you yourself could be prosecuted for failure to report an offence.

Crimes may also be reported anonymously. And, although the police are obligated to concern themselves with anonymous reports, their hands are bound by the absence of an important witness and the impossibility of clarifying eventual opacities. Moreover, it goes without saying that anonyms cannot be informed about the investigation.

Several exceptions to the duty to report exist:

  • advocates and counsellors who learn of an offence at work,
  • church dignitaries to whom an offence is confessed,
  • persons who, by reporting a crime, would bring danger of bodily harm, death, or criminal prosecution to a close person.

What happens after you complain

Following the submission, law enforcement authorities will initiate a process known as “screening,” during which they will meticulously gather essential evidence, examine any potential indicators of a crime, and solicit statements from individuals undergoing screening. During this phase, the police authorities are actively engaged in the preliminary investigation to determine both the feasibility of a crime having transpired and the potential identity of the alleged wrongdoer.

About two-thirds of all complaints are thrown out or remitted to another authority (administrative procedures, petty offence proceedings) during this phase.

Tip: Do you want to be sure that you don’t complain in vain? Request a lawyer’s assistance.

Criminal prosecution

When the facts suggest that a crime was committed, criminal prosecution follows. It’s instituted when the police or state prosecutor inform a defendant that they’re being prosecuted for committing an offence. At the same time, an investigation is launched, during which any important circumstances are examined, evidence gathered, witnesses interrogated and expert opinions given. Once the investigation is over, the police or state prosecutor may stop the prosecution, remit it to another authority (as previously mentioned), or proceed with an indictment based on the list of suggested evidence.

Ohlášení trestního činu za krádež peněženky z kabelky

3 facts of which to be aware before reporting a crime

1) The period for lodging a criminal complaint

Bear in mind that prosecution can only be instituted within a certain time frame, as over time, evidence weakens or may become unavailable, and the dangerousness of the committed offence may decrease. The statute of limitations for action depends on the gravity of the crime. Periods of limitation are in the order of years, for example:

  • 3 to 10 years for fraud, with respect to damage incurred and to whether or not the offender is a member of an organized group,
  • 3 years for neglecting child support, may extend to 5 years if recommitted,
  • 3 to 5 years for assault and battery, with respect to whether or not grievous bodily harm was inflicted,
  • murder is forfeited after 15 – 20 years.

Some offences may be reported free of period of limitation: Foundation, support and propagation of a movement suppressing personal rights and freedoms, subversion and terrorist attack.

Tip: It is of no import whether the crime was committed by a physical or legal person. However, the period of limitation is shorter for underage offenders.

2) Penalty for false accusation

Our clients often hesitate to report a crime for fear of penalties for false accusation. However, it’s crucial to distinguish between a false accusation and an unsuccessful criminal complaint. The plaintiff bears no responsibility for correctly judging whether or not a crime was indeed committed, nor the identity of its perpetrator.

You could only be charged with false accusation if you purposefully lied, and the police were able to prove that, e.g., you filed the criminal offence to aggrieve the alleged offender. Only then would you commit this crime described in Section 345 of the Criminal Code, which states, “Whoever falsely accuses another of a criminal act, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for up to two years.”

However, more severe punishments exist for offenders who:

  • falsely accuse another via the press, film, radio, television, social network, or a     similarly effective way,
  • cause damage equal to or exceeding 500,000 Czech crowns,
  • commit such an act with the intention to seriously harm another in their
    occupation, or to disrupt their family relations,
  • falsely accuse another to cover or lighten their own criminal act,
  • commit such an act on another, who has fulfilled their duty to them arising from
    their occupation, profession, position or function, or imposed on them according
    to law (this usually concerns officials performing their duties).
  • The imprisonment in these cases may extend up to 8 years.

3) A criminal complaint cannot be withdrawn

Be aware that once you report a crime, you can’t recall it. State prosecutors are obligated to prosecute all criminal acts about which they’re informed. We frequently deal with clients seeking reimbursement against complaint withdrawal. Unfortunately for them, no such agreements between the aggrieved and the offender are possible, due to the above-mentioned fact. This kind of agreement may only serve as the basis for conditionally stopping the prosecution, or for settlement approval.

On the other hand, several particular offences may only be prosecuted with the consent of the aggrieved, namely:

  • On the other hand, several particular offences may only be prosecuted with the consent of the aggrieved, namely:
  • causing bodily harm,
  • failure to render aid,
  • threat of venereal disease,
  • blackmail,
  • unauthorized interfering with a right to a house,
  • infringement of the rights of another,
  • breach of confidentiality of files and other private documents,
  • unauthorized use of a possession of another,
  • usury.

A complete list of offences requiring the aggrieved person’s consent can be found in Section 163 of the Criminal Code of the Czech Republic.

A word of advice

As we’ve mentioned in the beginning, most criminal complaints are thrown out due to insufficient evidence or important data missing in the report. Many of our clients, however, confuse a criminal complaint with a suit. According to Czech law, a criminal complaint isn’t meant to protect personal or property rights.

Tip: If another person damages your vehicle, it’s usually better to sue for damages rather than to report a crime.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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