It’s only natural that taking part in court proceedings can make you feel anxious and that you’ll have a number of questions.

You’ll want to know what is going to happen and what you’re supposed to do.
Here you will find a brief description of the stages in a criminal case.

We’ll try to give you short simple answers to questions such as:
“How do I report a crime?”,
“How is the investigation conducted?”,
“What happens in court?”,
“What is an appeal?”

and many others.

The case may be a long one and there will be a number of participants involved.
You can learn more about them in the section who’s who in criminal proceedings.


Any human event to which the criminal law connects a sanction is considered a crime.

All abnormal behaviour, not considered as a criminal offence, may constitute other examples of legal (administrative or civil) infringements, or may only constitute tedious acts, but not offences.
Therefore, any intentional human behaviour that causes an offence (damage or threat) to a fundamental social and individual interest becomes a crime.

There are two main categories:

  1. Crimes: representing the most serious breaches of the law and perpetrators are punished in one of the following ways:
    1. by life sentence: this is the most serious punishment and should mean the offender remains in prison for the rest of his/her life;
    2. by imprisonment: from 15 days to 24 years (without any aggravating circumstances);
    3. by a fine: a sum of money ranging from €50 to €50,000.
  2. Fines: punishment for less serious infringements of the law:
    1. by arrest: imprisonment from 5 days to 3 years;
    2. by a financial penalty: a sum of money ranging from €20 to €10,000.

Crimes can can also be by types typology:

  • Against the State.
  • Against the Public Administration (for example: corruption, extortion, embezzlement, abuse of the Public Official); in these cases, the victim is the national or local Public Administration.
  • Against the Administration of Justice (for example: perjury, false denunciation, corruption of magistrate, slander); in the case the victim is the proper course of justice.
  • Against Religion. These crimes classify as outrageous behaviours towards all religions and towards the memory of the deceased.
  • Against Public Order and Public Safety (for example: fire, massacre, disaster); in the case the victim is the person who has suffered damage.
  • Against the Environment.
  • Against the Public Faith (for example: falsification of acts and documents, counterfeiting of coins and banknotes).
  • Against the Public Economy, Industry and Commerce (for example: fraud in the exercise of trade, sale of food substances masqueraded as genuine, sale of counterfeit products).
  • Against Morality and Common Decency (obscene acts)
  • Against Feelings for Animals (for example: killing and mistreatment of animals).
  • Against the family (for example: failure to provide family assistance, abuse of disciplinary means on minors, abuse of cohabiting partners); in the case the victim is the family member or cohabiting partner who has suffered the damage.
  • Against the Person (for example: murder, injury, defamation, child prostitution, child pornography, slavery, persecutory acts, sexual violence, kidnapping, violation of confidentiality).
  • Against Property (for example: theft, robbery, fraud, extortion, damage, fencing).


Reporting the crime is a big step.
It is only after the complaint has been made that it is possible for the authorities to know that a crime occurred and to launch an investigation.

IMPORTANT: victim’s rights are guaranteed even in the absence of a complaint.
For more information, contact a Victims Support Center.


If you were the victim of a crime, it is very important that you report it to the authorities. If you do so, it is more likely that the person who committed the crime will be caught, held responsible and prevented from doing the same thing again, to you or to others.

Furthermore, it may be necessary to have reported the crime to be able to claim any rights to insurance or compensation, for example.

Reporting the crime to the authorities is also important for the purposes of crime statistics and general prevention or even for holding specific activities in certain cases and places to promote safety.

Police forces and personnel are required to report any crime they become aware of, whether in the course of their duties or because of their duties.

There are several reasons why you might be unwilling to report a crime:

  • “It wasn’t important”. The authorities recognize that even a minor crime can be distressing for the victim and they will take your complaint seriously.
  • “It is not a crime”. Only the police and the judiciary can correctly assess if the misdeed is a crime, or not.
  • “It’s embarrassing”. In cases of sexual or domestic violence, you may be ashamed to submit a report against another person. However, the authorities should deal with these situations sensitively and will not judge you. Whatever your gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality or ethnicity, being a victim of crime can be traumatic.
  • “The authorities don’t care”. The authorities have many cases to deal with and perhaps can’t consider yours as quickly as you would expect, but they will give it the proper attention. And while, they can’t always identify or catch the person responsible for the crime, they always try to do their best in every case.
  • “The police do not believe me”. The police only record your complaint and the Public Prosecutor or the judge establish the facts after a careful investigation.
  • “The police don’t want to take my complaint.” Police officers are obliged to record all complaints from all citizens and must forward them to the Public Prosecutor, who is required to evaluate them. Should the police officers refuse to receive the complaint, they will committing a serious crime and may be punished or lose their jobs.
  • “The police won’t listen to me”. Police officers are obliged to listen to everybody who believes he/she has been a victim of crime. If they refuse to listen to a victim, they will be committing a serious crime and may be punished or lose their jobs.
  • “It’s over and it hasn’t affected me.” If you haven’t been impacted by the crime, all the better. Some people can handle difficult situations and act as if nothing has happened, even when a serious crime was committed against them. Nevertheless, if you don’t report the crime, the offender can’t be caught and he/she might continue to harm others – perhaps the next victim is not as able as you in overcoming the effects of the crime.
  • “I can’t speak Italian”. If you have difficulties in speaking and understanding Italian, you could consider getting assistance from an interpreter.
  • “I’m in panic”. If you are a victim of violent crime, you may feel shocked, traumatized and afraid to report your experience to the police; however, your account will be listened to sympathetically by competent people.
  • “I’m worried about what’s going to happen next”. It is normal to be worried about going to the police, making statements and then testifying at court, but don’t forget that support and help are always available during the whole process.
  • “I want to protect those who mistreat me”. In case of family abuse, the victim doesn’t report the crime because of emotional attachment to the perpetrator; an attitude that is hard to overcome. However, there is no emotional bond that justifies the maltreatment of, and lack of respect for, family members.
  • “I’m afraid of retaliation by the perpetrator”. It is understandable that you may be afraid that the offender will repeat the crime or take revenge against your family or your property. Protective measures are available against potential retaliation once you communicate your fears to the authorities.
  • “I have to appoint a lawyer”. A lawyer is not required when you file a complaint and is only necessary if you wish to obtain compensation for damages from the perpetrator. In any case, the victim, if they address the Victim Support Centres, may receive instructions and legal advice free of charge.
  • “I am an unregistered foreign national, so I can’t report”. Even if you are an illegal immigrant, you still have fundamental human rights. Additionally, it may be possible that a residence permit can be granted on grounds of justice, which allows the unregistered victim to stay in Italy and exercise his/her rights in an Italian Court.

Whatever you decide to do, you are entitled to support. Even if you don’t report the crime against you, it is very important that you talk to someone about what happened and how you feel, and that you receive all the help you need.


Reporting a crime is free of charge. If you are a victim of a crime you should contact the authorities (Police, Carabinieri, etc.). You can file a complaint or a lawsuit even if you can’t identify the person who committed the crime: the authorities will investigate on your behalf and identify the offender. Anonymous complaints are not accepted, and you must report to the authorities in person.

How can people report a crime?

  • Through a complaint filed by the victim.
  • Through a complaint filed by those with knowledge of or involvement in the crime.
  • Through reports by members of the public.

Where can I submit a complaint or a lawsuit?
Complaints or lawsuits must be presented to the following offices:

  1. Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Public Prosecutor’s Office is established in every Court and contains a department that handles the receipt of written victim complaints; there is another department where the victim may submit the complaint orally.
  2. State Police. At the State Police offices – Quests and Commissariats – reports may be submitted in both written or oral formats.
  3. Carabinieri. At the Territorial Departments and at the Carabinieri Stations reports can be delivered in written and oral formats.
  4. Local Police. You can submit written or oral reports at the Local Police offices.
  5. Guardia di Finanza. Economic and financial crime reports can be submitted to the Guardia di Finanza.
  6. Penitentiary Police. The office is located into Prison
  7. Local Police.
  8. Consular Agent abroad.

What should the complaint say?
The report should contain:

  • description of the events that occurred and any harm or damage that resulted;
  • possible evidence;
  • personal details (name, surname, etc.) of the offender;
  • personal details (name, surname, etc.) of the victim;
  • possible witnesses.

How long do I have to file the complaint?
There is no deadline; but it’s better to report a crime as soon as possible to allow the Police start their investigation right away.
N.B: once submitted, the complaint can’t be withdrawn or revoked by the complainant.


What is a lawsuit?
The lawsuit is a civil action that takes place in crimes such as:

  • crimes against honor (defamation);
  • crimes against the sexual freedom of adult victims (sexual violence);
  • offences against minor assets;
  • mild personal injuries;
  • crimes of persecution (stalking).

By what date should I file the lawsuit?

  • within 90 days of the crime (or of its knowledge);
  • within 6 months of the crime in case of stalking.
  • within 12 months in case of sexual crimes.

Who can submit the lawsuit?
Lawsuits can be submitted by:

  • the victim of the crime.
  • parents or the guardian/trustee, if the victim is under 14 or she/he has insufficient mental capacity

What must the lawsuit contain?
Lawsuit must include:

  • description of the events;
  • possible sources of evidence;
  • possible personal information of the offender;
  • personal details of the victim;
  • possible witnesses;
  • precise request to proceed with the punishment

N.B: the lawsuit can be withdrawn or revoked by the complainant.
However, withdrawal of a lawsuit is not permitted:

  • in the case of sexual violence;
  • in crimes of persecution

Why might someone revoke the lawsuit?
It is generally withdrawn when a resolution has been reached between the victim and the offender, or if compensation or spontaneous reparation has been made by the offender to the victim.

In which context could someone withdraw the lawsuit?

  • in a non-judicial context (for example: at a police station);
  • in a judicial context (for example: in front of the judge).

Is the victim always obliged to report a crime?
Generally, neither the victim nor the private individual are obliged to report a crime. However, a victim is obliged to report a crime in these following cases:

  • If a crime has been committed against the State;
  • If the crime in question is punishable by a life sentence;
  • If the private individual has acquired goods such as money, objects, and so one from the crime

A victim submitting a complaint should receive a registration certificate confirming in a written form:

  1. type of crime suffered;
  2. date and place of the event;
  3. damage caused by the crime.


Once the crime notice has been submitted, the authorities open a file and the investigative phase begins.
What happens now?
The investigations will start to examine the circumstances reported by the victim.
This phase formally starts with the registration of the crime report in the Crime Report Register.

During the preliminary investigations, the victim can:

  • ask the Public Prosecutor about the progress of the investigations;
  • give the Public Prosecutor written documents to expand upon and better illustrate the nature of the crime;
  • provide the Public Prosecutor with evidence such as names of witnesses, documents and images, audio or video files.

Who carries out the investigations?
The investigations are directed and coordinated by the Public Prosecutor, but carried out by the Police.

During this phase, the investigating police officers will:

  • collect and store evidence;
  • carry out “urgent technical checks” . These may include the examination and analysis of biological samples, or autopsies to investigate the death of a victim.
  • identify suspects. The victim or witnesses are asked for a detailed description of the offender; whether they have ever seen the offender before; and eventually where, when and how they may have interacted with the suspect. The victim, or the witnesses, may be asked to view photographs to help identify the perpetrator .
  • listen to the offender;
  • listen to people who are aware of the circumstances reported;
  • listen to the victim;
  • request relevant documents: reports from any Local Health services that helped the victim; lists of telephone calls made by the suspect, etc.
  • search, or initiate operations, to find and acquire details of the crime.

After the victim has been interviewed, the investigative phase can last several months (6 – 24 months), depending on the collection of evidence and the complexity of the investigation; during this time, it may be necessary to interview the victim again.
To find out how the case is proceeding, the victim must contact the Prosecutor or the officer in charge for information: the case number will always be required before an update is given to the victim.
In case of risk of the accused escaping, of damage to the evidence collected, danger to public order and / or persistence of criminal activities,a security measure may be applied.


Forensic examinations, essential in some legal procedures, may be required to verify any signs of violence inflicted on the victim’s body: scratches, irritation/tenderness, wounds, bruises or other injuries. These examinations look for organic- or inorganic-traces on the victim’s body or clothes/objects left by the offender: blood, semen, vaginal fluids, skin, hair, fibers, etc. Forensic examinations are important to a crime victim, as they represent relevant evidence in the criminal trial.



Once the investigation has been completed, the Investigating Police Officer sends the evidence collected to the Public Prosecutor, who will review 2 options based on the information provided:

  1. dismissal
  2. commitment for trial.


If the defendant is still unknown, or if the crime report is unsupported, the Public Prosecutor asks the Preliminary Investigations Judge to archive the complaint.

What is the victim’s role?
The Public Prosecutor is required to notify the victim, as agreed by prior arrangement. However, what can the victim do when he/she receives notification of dismissal?

  • a) visit the Public Prosecutor’s office to examine the investigation documents to be dismissed;
  • b) consider challenging the Public Prosecutor’s decision;

How can the Public Prosecutor’s decision to dismiss the crime report be challenged?

An opposition to the request for dismissal must be submitted in writing and must contain justified criticisms of the Public Prosecutor’s decision. For example, perhaps it can be demonstrated that the Public Prosecutor has neglected to investigate some lines of inquiry or has not heard from relevant witnesses, who can reconstruct events. Opposition must be presented to the Public Prosecutor within 20 days from the receipt of the notice, or within 30 days in cases of crimes against individuals or burglary. An opposition to the dismissal motion can be introduced without instructing lawyer, though this is not always recommended.

What happens after the opposition request has been presented?

After the presentation of the opposition to the dismissal request, the case passes to the Judge for Preliminary Investigations. The Judge sets a hearing date, which both the victim, who submitted the opposition, and the suspect are invited to attend. Once the hearing discussions have concluded, the Judge has three options:

  • a) he may consider the Public Prosecutor’s request as valid, and may reject the opposition. The case is over, and the complaint is dismissed;
  • b) he may consider that the Public Prosecutor hasn’t exhausted all investigative avenues, and may order further research to be carried out;
  • c) he may consider that the crime report is well founded, and may order the Public Prosecutor to bring the case to the trial.

If the complaint is dismissed, the facts supporting the accusation and asserting the defendant’s criminal accountability are weak. However, it can’t be ruled out that the victim has a civil case based on his/her suffering and the victim may apply to the Civil Judge for compensation for damages. Furthermore, the case could be reopened, if the victim brings further relevant evidence to the attention of the Public Prosecutor.


If a perpetrator is identified and convincing evidence has been collected, the Public Prosecutor begins the criminal action. From this time the offender, who was until now formally designated a suspect, assumes the status of a defendant. The Public Prosecutor now formulates charges against the defendant and reviews all tenets of the Criminal Law he believes the defendant has violated as well as the short description of the circumstances, the place and date of the event.

Towards the Trial
The Public Prosecutor sends the investigation file to the Judge for Preliminary Investigations (GIP/GUP) and asks him/her to pursue the defendant’s commitment for trial. The Public Prosecutor then sets a date for the preliminary hearing, details of which are sent to the victim by letter and include:
a) the date, time and location of the hearing;
b) the crime for which the defendant will be judged;
c) the evidence to be presented.
This date should be noted in the calendar, so you don’t forget to participate at the hearing.

The role of the victim during the trial

What happens after receiving the preliminary hearing notification?
The victim can attend the preliminary hearing and may become a civil party.

What does it mean, becoming a civil party?

It means actively participating at the trial and exercising procedural rights to obtain compensation for damages.
To become a civil party you need a lawyer. You must give the lawyer the notified deed for the preliminary hearing. Then you must describe the circumstances that took place and the damages you suffered, you should provide any necessary documents to support your claim for damages.
Will the lawyer require you to sign anything?
The lawyer will need you to sign:
a) the professional contract;
b) the professional fees estimate, the lawyer must release a regular invoice for each payment. If the victim is entitled to legal aid, the estimate should not be signed;
c) the Power of attorney, the agreement for legal action and to becoming a civil party.


If the defendant was charged at the end of the inquiry stage the case moves on to the Trial Court.

The trial is a hearing that takes place in a courtroom.
The purpose of the trial is to decide whether there is enough evidence to convict the defendant of the crime of which he/she is accused and, if so, to impose a sentence.

At the trial, it is also discussed and decided whether the victim and any other people who suffered losses as a result of the crime and requested compensation are entitled to receive it.


After receiving the case file, the judge (who is usually not the same judge as the examining judge) schedules the trial date and a summons or notice is sent by letter* to all the people who have to participate in it.

Write down the date in your calendar or wherever you write down important events to ensure that you will not forget to attend.

The trial must be scheduled at least 30 days in advance.


It is perfectly normal to feel anxious and insecure before the actual trial, this is a new experience and it is important to prepare yourself. Help is available from victim support centers, who will talk to you about what to expect – from arriving at the courthouse to attending the trial. If you have the opportunity, you should visit the courthouse to familiarize yourself with the layout (the courtroom or the witness waiting room) and we suggest you attend another court case to orient yourself for the trial day.
On the hearing day the victim is likely to encounter the defendant, his family and his friends. The victim must prepare herself for this eventuality by choosing in advance the techniques she will adopt to remain impartial and to avoid provocation. However, if she feels threatened at any time, she must immediately inform the court clerk or the police officer in the courtroom. Whatever the role of the victim in the trial, she has the right to be supported by a lawyer and, if possible, should be accompanied by either a friend, family member or victim support worker.



The victim may attend the preliminary hearing, if desired, but can be represented by her lawyer. The letter arranging the date of the preliminary hearing will provide the location of the Preliminary Hearing Judge’s chamber.
During the preliminary hearing, the victim’s lawyer will file the documents to allow her to be involved in the trial as a civil party and will then participate in the discussion asking for the defendant’s commitment for trial. At the end of the discussion the Judge for the Preliminary Investigations (GIP) can:

  • a) order the defendant’s commitment for trial;
  • b) declare a dismissal, which represents an absolution of the defendant by considering him not guilty.
  • c) arrange research for further evidence and set a new hearing date.

If a dismissal is declared, this can be implemented by the Public Prosecutor or by the civil party. If the defendant is committed for trial, the Judge will organize the appropriate Court hearing. For less serious crimes, the Public Prosecutor skips the Preliminary Hearing phase and proceeds directly to summon the defendant before the Monocratic Court (Single Judge). In summoning the defendant, the Public Prosecutor also summons the victim so that she can become civil party.


The trial develops through a succession of hearings, which take place in the courtroom and are attended by:

  • a) the defendant and his lawyer;
  • b) the Public Prosecutor;
  • c) the civil party and his/her lawyer.

The hearings are directed by the President of the Court.
The goal of the trial is to establish whether the evidence collected by the Public Prosecutor is enough to affirm the defendant’s criminal responsibility, which will result in the offender paying financial compensation to the civil party.

What happens before the debate?

Seven days before the date set for the debate, the lawyer of the victim/civil party must list any witnesses to be called at the Court Registry. These witnesses will provide testimony on behalf of the civil party and must present themselves to the Court on the date of the hearing.

Who is a witness?
The witness is a person, who knows the circumstances relating to the crime. This person is called by the civil party to report these circumstances during the court deliberation.

Who is a technical expert?
He is an expert, who has specific skills for technical operations.


It is important that the victim is present at the trial on the day, time and place indicated.
You should plan your journey in advance to be able find the correct location and to calculate the time needed to reach the court. If you can, you should arrive a few minutes in advance of the published time as security checks may take time, especially in the larger courts, and you may need additional time locate the courtroom. If in doubt, you should speak to a court clerk, who will be able to direct you. Once at the courtroom, you may have to wait until your lawyer arrives before taking a seat.
It is possible that the start of the trial is delayed, either because not all participants have arrived or because the previous trial has not yet ended: in any case, you must wait.
As it’s normal to feel anxious while waiting for the trial to start, it’s a good idea to bring along a book, a newspaper or a magazine to read or you could listen to music to help calm your nerves. You can be accompanied by relatives or friends or you could request support during the hearing from your local Victim Support Center.
On the day of the trial, you may inadvertently meet the defendant and should be prepared for this possibility. If you are threatened or intimidated by the defendant, inform the presiding Judge, who can expel the defendant from the courtroom.
At the trial, you will be interrogated as a witness by:

  • a) the Public Prosecutor;
  • b) the defendant’s lawyer;
  • c) by your own lawyer.

Additionally, if necessary, you may be questioned further by the Court President to clarify points raised previously.
If you are called to testify, you must always answer sincerely and truthfully. If you don’t remember some details, you must answer “I don’t remember”.

What happens if you do not take part to the trial?
If you can’t be present for the hearing, but have been called as a witness, you will need to inform the Court President, in writing, of the reason. The President will then postpone the witness examination to another hearing. However, having ordinary work commitments is not a valid justification for non-attendance at the hearing. Valid justifications are health problems or unavailability, due to being outside Italian territory. However, your presence at the hearing is vital, so do your best to attend! Your knowledge of what happened is essential and can be crucial to the Judge’s decision. Missing the hearing will cause delays or impede justice from being done.

Who can attend the hearings?
The hearings are almost always open to members of the public, who are supervised by the Court President: anyone can enter the courtroom and listen to the hearings. There are some exceptions that allow the trial to be carried out behind closed doors: in cases of sexual crimes, or if a public hearing may prejudice the security and confidentiality of the parties involved.


In trials for significant crimes, the Court is composed of three Judges and chaired by the President. In those of more common crimes, the Court is composed of a single Judge. In trials of very serious crimes (murder or crimes against the State, etc.) the Court is called “Corte d’Assise” and is composed of two professional Judges (one of whom acts as President) and six lay Judges (common citizens).

The following people are also present at the hearing:

  • a) the Chancellor, who sits next to the Court??, organizes the hearings and puts the statements in the minutes;
  • b) the Public Prosecutor, who carried out the investigations and supports the prosecution brought before the Court: generally, the Public Prosecutor sits on the left before the Court;
  • c) the defendant and his lawyer: they generally sit on the left, in front of the Court;
  • d) the victim/civil party and his/her lawyer: they generally sit in the second row, on the left, in front of the Court, or next to the Public Prosecutor;
  • e) witnesses, who are seated beside the Court and are interrogated by the various parties;
  • f) experts, consultants and foreign language interpreters.


If the defendant, who was summoned to appear at the hearing, has not turned up, the trial will continue in his absence (but in the presence of his lawyer).
The trial opens with the identification of the parts.

The Judge calls:

  • a) the defendant who signifies his presence, together with that of his lawyer.
  • b) the offended party who, if she is a civil party, signifies her presence together with that of her lawyer.

The Judge then takes formal control of the trial papers to evaluate, prevent and correct any procedural errors and preliminary questions.

Next the Judge:

  • a) Turns proceedings over to the Public Prosecutor, who submits his request for evidence. That is, he asks the witnesses for the prosecution to be heard;
  • b) Turns proceedings over to the defense lawyer for the victim, now a civil party, who makes his request for evidence. That is, he asks the witnesses for the civil party to be heard;
  • c) Turns proceedings over to the defendant’s defense lawyer, who makes his request for evidence. That is, he asks the witnesses for the defendant to be heard;

Finally, the Judge decides on the requests for evidence from the parties.
Once the probative themes and the proof tools have been identified, and to allocate the probative duties, the Judge may create a hearings calendar.
The Judge then postpones the trial to the next hearing.


Once the evidence has been collected, the Judge declares the hearing closed. At that point, the Judge invites the parties to submit their conclusions:
1) The Public Prosecutor lays out his case and winds up his presentation. Generally, he asks for the conviction of the defendant, quantifying the length of the custodial sentence and the amount of the financial penalty. If the Public Prosecutor believes that he has not provided evidence of the defendant’s guilt, he should ask for an acquittal.
2) Subsequently the civil party lawyer proceeds to summarize the arguments for the victim and present his conclusion. He will demand a declaration of criminal and civil responsibility from the defendant and quantify the monetary amount of the damages suffered. Finally, the lawyer for the civil party must give the Judge his written conclusions, the precise sum of the damages for the victim and the expenses sustained for the defense.
3) Only then will the lawyer for the defendant speak. He will provide either reasons for his client’s innocence, asking for an acquittal, or he will try to minimize his client’s behavior by asking for lighter sanctions.
If the victim is present in the courtroom, he/she must listen carefully to the discussion, but can’t intervene, can’t speak and can’t make signs of approval or disapproval.

Once the Prosecutor and lawyers have finished, the Court retires to the council chamber to deliberate.
Once the decision is made, the Court reconvenes in the courtroom, where the various parties are on their feet and then remain standing (as a sign of respect).
If the case is straightforward, The Court President may pronounce its decision and the sentence at the same time.


In some situations, the trial can go ahead under alternative procedures, in order to accelerate, simplify and reduce cost of the process:
1) Summary judgment
During the summary judgment, the defendant asks to be judged according to the contents of the Preliminary Investigations file and with a defensive integration request: if sentenced in a summary judgment, the defendant will receive a penalty reduction of one third.
The civil party can participate in the summary judgment, which will conclude with the request for damage compensation; however, if the summary judgement is not acceptable, the civil party will The civil part who won’t accept the summary judgment will quit the trial and may submit her reasons before the Civil Judge.
2) The plea bargain
The plea bargain is an arrangement whereby the defendant and the Public Prosecutor come to an agreement penalty to be applied. This agreement is then approved by the judge.
What is the victim’s position in the plea bargain?
The victim, who participated as a civil party, can ask for a refund of legal charges. We would like to stress that plea bargaining is only allowed for less serious crimes.


A sentence is the written action issued by the Court, after the trial concludes, which contains its decision and declares the position of the defendant. the sentence can declare:

  • a) the defendant not guilty, and therefore acquit him
  • b) the defendant guilty, and then convict him.

The sentence also contains the penalty established for the accused, which can be:

  • a custodial sentence (life sentence, detention, arrest) or removal of a part of his assets (fine). The penalty can be effective (which means that it must be served), or it can be suspended, on the expectation that the defendant will demonstrate future good conduct.
  • additional penalties, for example: the prohibition of exercising a profession or a commercial activity.

Finally, the conviction can also declare the defendant a danger to society and impose other restrictions (security measures) to come into force after the custodial sentence has been served.

Generally, when the Court declares that the defendant is guilty, it provides for the victim as a civil party.
a) If the damage claimed by the victim is proved, the sentence will require the defendant to pay full compensation to the victim.
b) If a precise and complete account of the damage has not been reached, the sentence will call for the defendant to make a provisional payment (the provisional executive) and will return the claim to the Civil Judge for a complete assessment of the damages.

What are the components of the sentence?

The sentence consists of two parts: the ruling and the motivation.

  • a) The ruling contains the core elements of the sentence. For example: “The Court acquits the defendant from the alleged crime because the offense does not constitute a crime.” Or: “The Court declares the defendant guilty of the alleged offense and sentences him to two years’ detention, requires him to pay the executive provision of € 20,000.00 to the civil party and refers the claim to the Civil Judge for a complete assessment of the damages. He must also pay the civil party’s legal fees of €2,000, in addition to fiscal extras”.
  • b) The motivation is the written statement of reasoning that led the Court to arrive at the decisions contained in the ruling. An ideal motivation describes the development of the trial, the reconstruction of the facts based on the evidence obtained and an explanation of application of the legal rulings related to the case under consideration.


Sentences can be criticized and challenged, but changes can only be carried out as prescribed by law. If the civil party, if the Public Prosecutor or if the defendant disagree with the first instance sentence, they can lodge an appeal.
*An appeal is the request to review the sentence (which is called the sentence of first instance) by a second-degree Judge, *who is empowered to modify the ruling when and if necessary.

How do you challenge a sentence?
As the civil party, you must contact your lawyer, who submit a written appeal, a document that must indicate:
a) the reasons why the first instance sentence is incorrect or does not follow the law;
b) the conclusions, or the request to the second-degree Judge to modify the sentence being challenged.
The appeal will then be lodged in the issuing Judge’s chambers. Subsequently, the chambers will pass the appeal to the second-degree Judge at the Appeal Court .


The Appeal Court is composed of three Judges, known as the Councilors. Each Appeal Court is chaired by a Chairman Councilor.
The following parties attend the hearing before the Appeal Court:

  • a) the General Prosecutor of the Republic acting as Public Prosecutor;
  • b) the civil party and his lawyer;
  • c) the defendant and his lawyer.

A victim who is not a civil party can file defensive and illustrative briefs for the attention of the Court.
The trial before the Appeal Court can follow two formats:

  • a) the parties present may make their defense orally and the Court immediately issues the second instance sentence;
  • b) if the Court deems it necessary, other evidence may be collected. Based on any new evidence gathered, the parties will then proceed to the final discussion; only then, will the Court issue the sentence of second instance.

The sentence of second instance.
The sentence of second instance may contain:

  • a) confirmation: the Court confirms the sentence of first instance;
  • b) total reform: whether the sentence of first instance establishes the guilt of the defendant, the sentence issued by the Appeal Court can establish his/her innocence;
  • c) partial reform: whether the first instance sentence condemned the defendant to two years of imprisonment, the sentence issued by the Appeal Court may reduce the sentence to one year and ten months of detention. However, even if the sentence of second instance reduces the conviction, the compensation for damages established in favor of the civil party at the first instance is not reduced.

The sentence issued by the Appeal Court can be challenged, but only for reasons relating to procedure and the correct application of the legal rules, before the Supreme Court of Cassation. The Court of Cassation is based in Rome.

*Extraordinary challenge. *
Once the phase before the Court of Cassation is over, the sentence becomes final and can no longer be questioned. There is only the instrument of sentence review, which can be used when previously unknown evidence is submitted.



Telling the truth is describing everything that happened in as much detail as you can remember. This is your role as a witness.



Wait until the end of the question before replying.



Take as much time as you need to think about the question you were asked and about your answer.



Respond slowly and calmly to all the questions using short clear sentences.



Do not be afraid to say everything you know and all the details you can remember. All the information you can provide may be important to finding out what happened. If, in order to describe what happened, you need to use less appropriate words, such as swear words used by the defendant during the crime, you should do so.



Don’t try to please whoever is asking the questions by providing information about subjects with which you are not familiar.



You can, and you should ask for the question to be repeated or explained better. You can say: “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand. Can you please repeat that/explain that better?



When asked questions to which you don’t know how to reply, there is only one answer: “I don’t know”. Remember that your role is to tell what you know about what happened. Don’t make up a reply just to answer the question. Don’t assume and don’t give your opinion. Testify to the facts that you saw, heard, know of or learned directly. Testimonies based on rumour or hearsay are irrelevant.



It is possible that you will be asked the same question more than once. Try to answer it the same way.



It is only natural that you can’t remember all the details or that you can’t recall some things accurately. If this happens, stay calm and don’t be afraid to say:“I don’t remember”. Forgetting some things that happened in the past is a natural memory process. This may be associated with the passage of time (very often, witnesses have to testify about something that happened many months or years ago) or with discomfort caused by recalling a negative life experience.



It is natural to feel afraid, nervous and tearful. Testifying is an experience that can make anyone anxious and frightened. Talking about the crime or answering questions about the crime you witnessed (or were a victim of) is not a pleasant task, because it forces you to remember things you would like to forget and ‘erase’ from your memory. One of the reactions that can occur is crying. Don’t feel ashamed about this. Your reaction will be understood, as it has already happened to many people in the same situation.



Don’t be afraid of the defendant or let his/her presence inhibit you. Avoid looking at him/her while answering the questions. Look only at the person asking you the question. If you’d rather speak without him/her being there, you can say so to the judge. If the judge thinks this is reasonable, the defendant may be removed from the room while you are speaking.



The witness isn’t being accused of anything: the witness hasn’t committed any crime. The only person being accused is the defendant. The witness is there to help the authorities gather important information so that they can make the right decisions.



It is natural that during the trial some of what is said or some of the questions you are asked may cause you discomfort, if you feel that what you went through is being challenged. Keep in mind that this may be part of the defendant’s defence strategy, so try to stay calm and not let it affect you.


Remember that you are not responsible for the court’s decision about the defendant. Carry out your role: tell what you know about what happened. The decision as to whether or not to convict the person accused of committing the crime always lies with the judge.


If you feel tired or overly nervous, you can either request a break to go to the toilet or ask for a glass of water and a tissue.


After you testify, it is possible that the trial will proceed and that other witnesses will be questioned by the judge. You can either stay and watch the rest of the trial or leave the court. You may not talk to other witnesses who haven’t testified yet about what you know or what happened when you testified.


After all the witnesses have testified, the judge announces the day and time for reading the judgment. You don’t have to attend, but you may if you wish.


If the defendant is acquitted, it doesn’t mean that the judge didn’t believe your testimony. Being acquitted is not the same as being innocent. It means that the evidence gathered and given at the trial was not enough (and valid) for the judge to make a sound decision about the defendant’s guilt.


If anyone threatens or intimidates you or tries to attack you after you testify, report it to the police immediately. If someone has threatened or intimidated you or tried to attack you before you testify, then, besides reporting it to the police, you should also inform the court.




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