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Reporting someone to the police – Filing a report

Reporting a crime to the police

Although you should report any crime to the police or to the cantonal prosecution service as soon as you can, you are under no obligation to do so. You can report a crime at any police station, either verbally or in writing.

Police stations

How are crimes prosecuted?

Form of offence Method of prosecution
Offence prosecuted ex-officio

Offences prosecuted ex-officio are normally serious crimes, such as homicide, robbery, arson, or indecent assault. Ex-officio means the authorities will pursue the case irrespective of the wishes of the victim.
  • The offence is prosecuted by the authorities (police and / or public prosecutor), even if the victim does not report it.
  • It is essential that the authorities are aware that the offence has been committed. Anyone can report a crime to the police, even if they have not been personally affected by it.
Offence prosecuted on complaint

Offences prosecuted on complaint are normally less serious crimes, such as vandalism, petty theft or common assault.
  • The victim must file a criminal complaint with the police.
  • If no complaint is made, the offence will not be prosecuted.

Criminal complaints – useful information

  • If you do not have the legal capacity to file a report, your legal representative can do it for you.
  • Ideally you should file the report as soon as possible, whether you know who the perpetrator was or not, but in any event you must file the report within three of months of becoming aware of the perpetrator’s identity.
  • You can only file a criminal complaint if you are the actual victim of a crime.
  • You must file the complaint within three months of the incident.
  • You can make the complaint against a specific person or persons or against persons unknown.
  • You can withdraw the complaint. But remember: if you have been injured or sustained a loss or damage due to the crime, and you want to claim for this as part of the criminal proceedings (e.g. because you are not covered by insurance), you have to file a criminal complaint.
  • You don't have to have a lawyer. But in complicated cases, it is advisable to consult one.
  • You can file a criminal complaint at any police station, either verbally or in writing or you can file a written complaint with the public prosecutor.

Reporting a crime – useful information:

  • Anyone who is aware that a crime has been committed can report it. It is not essential for you to have been personally affected by the crime.
  • You can report a crime even if you do not know who committed it.
  • You can report a crime at any police station or to the cantonal prosecution service, either verbally or in writing.  

Procedure for a criminal case

Since 2011 the same procedure has been followed in criminal cases in every canton:

  • The police investigate what has happened. At the end of the investigation, the public prosecutor's office that has jurisdiction over the case decides whether there is enough evidence to bring charges.
  • The public prosecutor is responsible for bringing the case to court and conducting the trial. The accused can provide evidence that he or she is not guilty at any time.
  • The judge listens to the evidence, arranges for any additional evidence to be taken and issues a verdict at the end of the trial.
  • In principle you can contest the decision by filing an appeal, but it is worth consulting a lawyer before doing this.
  • Anyone who has reported a crime can ask the authorities whether criminal proceedings have been brought or not.