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Criminal proceedings

How do criminal proceedings work?

It is completely normal to feel insecure and afraid when confronted with participation in criminal proceedings. As the victim of a crime, you want to know what to expect and how you should behave.

The following sections provide a concise overview of criminal proceedings in Austria and the parties involved. You will find information on what the public prosecutor does, how investigations proceed, and what happens in court.

Should you need any further information on criminal proceedings, please call Weisser Ring at 0810 955 065 at local rates from anywhere in Austria.

Please note that there may be special rules applicable to juvenile offenders, which are not detailed below.

 
 
Criminal proceedings
THE CRIMINAL OFFENCE
What types of criminal offences are there? Austrian criminal law distinguishes between different types of criminal offences. Below you will find the different ways they can be categorised:
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FILING A COMPLAINT
Who can I turn to when I have become the victim of a crime? If you fall victim to a crime, you can report it at any police station or at the office of the public prosecutor. Staff of a victim support organisation mayaccompany you and offer you support and assistance in this often difficult situation.
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INVESTIGATIVE PROCEEDINGS
What happens after I have filed a complaint? Once the authorities have learned of a suspected criminal offence, for instance through a complaint (see also: Filing a complaint), the so-called investigative proceedings start. The purpose of this stage of the criminal justice process is to establish the facts and resolve the suspicion of a criminal offence as alleged in the complaint. The authorities are under an obligation to try and find the truth and to uncover all the facts relevant for assessing both the offence and the offender.
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INVESTIGATIONS COMPLETED: WHAT DOES
THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR DO NOW?
What happens after the investigative proceedings have been completed? Once all the necessary investigations have been carried out, the public prosecutor has to decide, based on the outcome, on how to proceed further. The following variants are possible:
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IN COURT
What happens after charges have been brought? Once charges have been brought, the file is handed over to the court. The judge serves the bill of indictment on the defendant and then sets a date for the trial. This date must be notified to the defendant, the public prosecutor and the victim or their respective representatives.
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Basic principles of the trial
What are the principles in Austrian criminal procedure? Austrian criminal procedural law is governed by the principles of objectivity and exploration of the truth. This means that judges, public prosecutors and the criminal police have to officiate in an unbiased and non-prejudiced manner.
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Your summons to the trial
Please read the summons carefully (summons document). It is advisable to arrive at court at least 25 minutes prior to the time set in the summons, as security checks may result in delays.
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What happens if i miss the hearing?
Witnesses or victims of an offence must comply with a summons to appear in court. If you fail to appear in spite of having been duly summoned, the court may impose a fine (of up to EUR 1,000).
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In the courtroom
What to expect? If this is the first time you have to testify in court, it is entirely normal for you to be nervous or unsure. To help you prepare for this new situation, we will briefly explain what you can expect to happen after you enter the courtroom.
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Steps in the trial
What steps are involved in a court trial At the beginning of a criminal trial, the judge calls up the case “The Republic versusJohn Doe”. All the parties then enter the courtroom and take their seats. Important to note: Witnesses have to wait outside!
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Your witness testimony
How does the questioning of a witness work? As a witness, you have to wait outside the courtroom until you are called up. Once you have been called up, you enter the room and take a seat at the small table right in the middle of the room, directly opposite from the judge (for more details, see: In the courtroom).
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10 useful hints for witnesses and victims
Don’t be afraid of the examination! You are not the person being accused. As a witness, it is your role to tell the court what you have seen with your own eyes. Listen carefully what question you are being asked!
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If you still have questions
Please contact: Weisser Ring Kriminalitätsopferhilfe NußdorferStrasse67/7 A-1090 Vienna Tel: 01 / 712 14 05 Fax: 01 / 718 83 74 E-mail: Office@Weisser-Ring.at Opening hours: Mon – Thu: 9:00-16:00 h, Fri: 9:00-15:00 h or Victim hotline 0800 112 112 www.opfernotruf.at
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THE VERDICT
When does the court hand down the verdict and what does it consist of? The verdict is pronounced at the end of the oral hearing. The court announces whether the defendant was found guilty of the offence he/she was charged with.
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APPEALING A VERDICT
How can you challenge a verdict? There are legal remedies to have a verdict altered. Depending on which court handed down the verdict, different such remedies are available to you.
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Who can appeal a verdict?
Both the accused and the public prosecutor may lodge all of the appeals listed above. Victims who have joined the proceedings in order to claim civil-law damages may appeal a verdict only in so far as their claims for compensation are affected.
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How can i as a victim appeal a verdict?
Victims can only appeal a verdict if they have joined the proceedings as a private party to claim civil-law damages and only in so far as the claims raised are affected. (see The private party)
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