Crime and the legal system in Luxembourg
Having a basic idea about crime levels when living in Luxembourg, areas to avoid, plus an understanding of the legal system can make your stay much safer.
While reports show that crime in Luxembourg is mildly rising, the country is still incredibly safe, with effective law enforcement and security services. Regardless, if you commit a crime in Luxebourg, it’s important to know what the process is. Here is what you need to know about the crime and legal system in Luxembourg.
Crime in Luxembourg
Summer tourist season brings a higher amount of petty theft and scams at transport stations, busy shopping areas and bars because of tourist season. The most common forms of crime in Luxembourg are non-violent, like theft and burglary. Pickpockets are a problem on buses and in Luxembourg's train stations.The Gare (main train station) that serves international trains to and from Paris is a place to be mindful of your belongings at all times. ATM card reading is known to happen, so be aware when making withdrawals.
Problems with drug dealing, vandalism, theft, corruption and bribery have all seen a moderate increase over the years, but the overall numbers remain low. (For example, in 2015 there were five homicides compared to four.) Burglaries have dropped by 17 percent in 2016, although they still make up for over half of annual crimes reported. Rarely does this refer to home burglary, as it is more directed to purse snatching and suitcase stealing.
Luxembourg has very well lit and maintained roads and public parks that are safe during the daylight hours. Try to avoid parks after dark, and keep your money and wallet close on you at busy areas during tourist season. Normal safety precautions at home is advised.
Any victim of a crime should report the incident to the nearest police station and fill out a complaint. In the event there is a significant loss, the police report will often be required by the victim's insurance company as evidence of a loss. In the event that your bank or credit cards are stolen, immediately block them with the issuer, as they will likely be used within the first hour. Luxembourg law allows police to detain foreign nationals for a maximum of 24 hours without an arrest warrant.
In the case of an emergency, help is widely available. You can always dial 112 for an ambulance or a fire, or 113 for the police. Drugstores are also plentiful, and operate on a 24-hour rotation system for after-hour services. To find the on-call pharmacy, call 112. In case of an automobile mishap, breakdowns and towing can be reported to the Automobile Club Luxembourg at 260 00. For more dire circumstances, still use 112 for a medical emergency or 113 for the police.
Luxembourg police and protection force
In 2015, the Luxembourg government announced a complete overhaul of police force structure that is currently still being organised. However here is the basic layout of police for in Luxembourg at the time of publishing. The Grand Ducal Police makes up the primary law enforcement agency in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and are responsible for safeguarding internal security, maintaining law and order, border control and law enforcement. These police also responsible assist military with internal operations if needed.
Luxembourg’s police force operations are divided into six regions under the command of a regional director of primary intervention centres (CIP), secondary intervention centres (CIS), local police stations, and region-wide services. Region headquarters are in Capellen, Diekirch, Esch-sur-Alzette, Grevenmacher, Luxembourg City, and Mersch. Under these CIPs are thirteen CIS. These offices are open 24 hours a day, and contact either one in the event of an emergency (dial 113).
In addition, regional police forces are responsible for policing the roads, criminal investigation, and providing aid to victims of crime. A special police division at Luxembourg Findel Airport is directly responsible for border control.
Law and Justice in Luxembourg
Luxembourg may be a small country, but there are laws to abide by and a civil law court system to uphold. In fact, The European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court in the European Union and European Union law, is based in Luxembourg.
Breaking the Law in Luxembourg
The current Constitution of Luxembourg consists of 121 articles and 13 chapters, including foundations of the country, the guarantee of citizens’ rights and liberties, and the organisation of the powers. If you are living in Luxembourg and there is a serious incident, or someone in your family is involved in a crime, or has committed one, it’s helpful to know the basics.
Knowing your rights
If an arrest occurs, there is no law requiring the police to inform you of your rights, however they will inform you of your right to legal assistance if you need a lawyer. You have the right to remain silent until a lawyer can advise you to answer. You also have the right to be informed of the accusations against you in a way (language) you can understand. Courts pay attention to whether this was respected during your initial arrest, and whether or not you were voluntarily informed of any specific rights or now – because in the European Union there is a right to information law unrecognised by Luxembourg.
If you are an expat, you have the right to have your embassy or consulate informed about your arrest. You are also allowed to tell one person about your arrest, although there are exceptions to communication rights.
Getting a lawyer
Obviously getting a lawyer in Luxembourg is important for representation, advising in criminal proceedings and to make sure rights are protected. The Luxembourg Bar (http://www.barreau.lu) contains a list of private lawyers and a list of lawyers on daily duty if needed, with English speaking lawyers as well.
If financing for a private lawyer is an issue, there might be legal aid available from the Bar Association if you are not a Luxembourg citizen or if you are an EU citizen. You also have access to a free interpreter during any court case, as questioning takes place in either French or German. If there is any feeling of regrets or uncertainty, you can change your lawyer anytime and choose another one at not penalty cost.
Trials in Luxembourg: Your options
There are three trial categories: minor offence, major offence and crime ('contravention', 'delit' and 'crime'). A minor offence is tried at police court by a single judge, but a major offence or a crime is tried at the district court by a panel of three judges (excluding traffic offences). Those being charged for a crime must be at their trial, for the others it is not necessary (your lawyer can represent you) although it is recommended. There are no trials by jury in Luxembourg, nor are there direct cross-examining witnesses (questioning is done by the judge or by the lawyer via the judge).
Going to trial in Luxembourg
Going to trial in Luxembourg can move quickly or painfully slow due to delays. The time and length depends on the difficulty of your case, and since there is no legal time limit with trials or detention time, it is difficult to predict. Confessing to the accusations or asking for a plea bargaining procedure is possible and might move the case faster. Still, the public prosecutor does not have to accept any plea or confession. If the prosecutor does accept, they could propose a sentence in return which you may or may not want. If the outcome is to your favour, a court hearing will occur to certify any agreement. No matter what, your trial must take place in Luxembourg and cannot be transferred to a home or another country. If you do not understand German or French, you will be provided with an oral translator.
Court decisions can take two to three weeks once the trial has ended. If you are unhappy with your decision it can be appealed, with new evidence included, and must be made in writing no later than 40 days after the court’s decision. Appeals may cost more, and it takes months before an appeal hearing can occur. Prosecutors could fire back with an appeal for a harsher sentence, and at the very least your case could be passed on to the European Court of Appeals.
Going to prison
Depending on the crime it is possible to be held by the police for a maximum of 24 hours, and afterwards either be released to taken to an investigative judge. If you are released it is necessary to give your residence address (and a bail fee). Anyone being detained while awaiting trial can ask for a release in writing, and a judge will decide whether this is possible. If refused, you can appeal to the Court of Appeals. If released, it is possible traveling outside of the country, to particular locations or communication with certain people is forbidden (known as judicial control). When the first court hearing is over, the judge decides whether to sentence detention time or to be released under judicial control. Breaching any of these conditions could result in a warrant for your arrest.
If you get off with a fine, not paying it can lead to prison time equal to one day per EUR 50 of your fine. In the unlikely case you do not get simply sentenced back to your original country for jail time, prison rights include the right to food and water, to see your lawyer, and to be protected from violence and harassment. Good conduct in prison could lead to an early release.
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