No one is prepared to be a victim of a crime. Whether it's a pickpocketing, aggravated assault or other crime, you're hurt or distraught by the crime and often don't know what to do afterwards. Here is an initial overview of where you can find help in this situation and what your rights are.
Who can help me?
Advice and help is offered by victim support organizations. The counseling centers are staffed by specially trained women and men who have a lot of experience with people in your situation and who want to listen to you and help you. Depending on the severity of the case, they can also arrange further help for you, z. B. psychological or therapeutic help.
In addition, the Online Database for Victims of Crime (ODABS) is available to help you find appropriate assistance: ODABS – Online Database for Victims of Crime.
How can I report a crime and what happens then??
If you want to report a crime, you can contact any police station. If you have filed a criminal complaint, you can no longer simply withdraw it, because the investigating authorities (police and public prosecutor's office) must in principle pursue every reported criminal offense.
Only in the case of some less serious crimes (such as z.B. in the case of insult or damage to property), the victim can decide whether the crime will be prosecuted. This is why these offenses are called petition offenses: prosecution usually only takes place upon request, i.e., only if you, as the victim of the crime, specifically request it. You must make this request within three months after you learn about the crime and who the offender is.
What if I do not understand the German language or understand it only with difficulty??
That does nothing. If you want to file a complaint, they will help you. If you are being questioned as a witness, you are entitled to have an interpreter present.
What information can I get about the criminal proceedings?
If you have been the victim of a crime, you do not always automatically receive information about the criminal proceedings. You must say, preferably immediately to the police, whether and what information you want to have. If you wish to do so, you will be informed about the following:
- You will receive a short written confirmation of your criminal complaint.
- You will be informed if the public prosecutor's office has discontinued the proceedings,
i.e. has not been brought to court for prosecution.
- You will be informed about when and where the court hearing will take place and what will happen to the resp. the accused is accused of.
- You will be notified of the outcome of the legal proceedings, d.h. Whether there was an acquittal or conviction, or whether the case was dropped.
- You will receive information about whether the or . the accused or convicted person is in custody.
- You will be informed whether the or. the convicted person is forbidden to contact you.
In addition, in individual cases you can request to receive information or copies from the files. After a traffic accident, for example, this may be an accident sketch that you need in order to claim damages or compensation for pain and suffering. If you are not entitled to file an accessory action (see below for more information on accessory actions), you must also give reasons for the request, i.e. explain why you need this information from the files.
Exceptions to this may be possible in individual cases.
Your statement as a witness
If you have been the victim of a crime, you are very important to the proceedings as a witness. As a rule, you make your statement to the police. In many cases you will have to testify in court later on. Only in exceptional cases, z. B. if you are married or related to the accused person, you may refuse to testify, so you do not have to say anything.
But you have to say your name and address during your interrogation. An exception can be made if there is a special risk of harm. This can be z. B. be the case if someone has threatened you with violence because you want to testify. Then you do not have to give your private address. You can instead give another address where you can be reached. This can z. B. be a victim support organization with which you are in contact.
Testifying as a witness is certainly an exceptional situation for you that can be very stressful. Therefore, you can also bring someone with you to the hearing. This can be a relative or a friend or a friend. This person may be present during questioning and may only be excluded in exceptional circumstances. Of course, you can also be accompanied by a lawyer. In special cases we can even provide you with a lawyer for the duration of the interrogation at state expense. If you feel that you need such assistance for an interrogation, whether by the police, the prosecutor's office, or the court, check with the person conducting the interrogation before your interrogation!
If children or adolescents have been victims of a violent or sexual offense, there is the possibility of professional support and assistance during the entire proceedings, the so-called psychosocial process support. In individual cases, adult victims of serious violent or sexual crimes may also need and receive such assistance. The psychosocial process support is free of charge for the victims, if it has been confirmed by the court.
Further information – also in different languages – as well as the application for the assignment of a Psychosocial Legal Aid can be found here: Information on Psychosocial Legal Assistance
Can I join the criminal proceedings as a joint plaintiff?. Join joint plaintiff?
If you are a victim of certain crimes, you can act as a joint plaintiff in the proceedings. These include z.B. Rape, sexual abuse, attempted homicide or an act that resulted in the killing of a close relative.
In such a case you have special rights. For example, unlike the other witnesses, you can always participate in the court hearing.
Who pays for my lawyer?
If you seek legal assistance, you may incur costs. If the defendant is convicted, he or she must pay damages. they pay your legal fees. However, not all convicted persons are actually in a position to pay the costs. Therefore, you may have to pay the costs yourself.
In special exceptional cases, you can apply to the court to get a lawyer at state expense. This is z. B. in the case of serious violent or sexual offenses, or if close relatives, z. B. children, parents or the spouse or. the spouse has died as a result of a crime. In this case, it does not matter whether you have assets or not.
In other cases, you can also apply to the court for financial assistance for legal advice. This may be the case if you have too low an income and are entitled to join the proceedings as a joint plaintiff or. To join a joint plaintiff.
Damages and compensation for pain and suffering
You have also suffered damage as a result of a crime or would like to receive compensation for pain and suffering? You would like to make this claim right away in the criminal proceedings? This is usually possible (sog. Adhesion proceedings). However, you must file an application. You can already do this when you report the crime.
Of course, you also have the option of claiming damages or compensation for pain and suffering in another proceeding, d. h. not in the criminal court, but in the civil court. Here, too, you can apply to the court for financial assistance for legal advice if your income is too low.
What other rights do I have?
You have suffered damage to your health as a result of an act of violence? If so, you can receive state benefits through the Victim Compensation Act, for example, when it comes to medical or psychotherapeutic treatment, provision of assistive devices (z. B. walking aid, wheelchair) or pension benefits (z. B. to compensate for loss of income) goes. You can already file a brief application with the police.
If you are a victim of extremist attacks or terrorist crimes, you can apply for financial assistance from the Federal Office of Justice. There you can find out everything about the requirements and the procedure: Federal Office of Justice (search term: Harteleistungen/ Opferhilfe)
As a victim of domestic violence, you may have further rights under the Violence Protection Act (Gewaltschutzgesetz). For example, you can apply to the family court that the offender or. The offender is prohibited from contacting you. The court may, in special circumstances, allow you to use a previously shared with the offender or. now be allowed to use the apartment occupied by the perpetrator alone. You can either submit the necessary applications in writing to the district court or have your applications recorded there on the spot. You do not have to be represented by a lawyer.
What is victim-offender mediation?
This is the name given to a procedure that is primarily intended to help the victim of a crime to come to terms with the injustice he or she has suffered. Unlike in normal criminal proceedings, an offender or. a perpetrator very concretely and directly with what damages and injuries his or. her crime caused damage to the victim. This can concern the material damage a victim has suffered as a result of a crime, or psychological injuries, personal slights and fears caused by the crime. However, a victim-offender mediation is never conducted against the will of the victim and only if the offender or. the perpetrator is seriously willing to take responsibility for the crime. In appropriate cases, a victim-offender mediation can serve the victim's self-determined conflict resolution and the restoration of legal peace. Often this procedure is therefore already suggested by the public prosecutor or the police. However, it is not part of the criminal proceedings themselves and is conducted outside of the criminal proceedings. There are special agencies and facilities that use trained mediators for this purpose.