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. Regardless, if you commit a crime in Luxembourg, 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
The summer brings a higher amount of petty theft and scams at transport stations, busy shopping areas, and bars. 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 Paris is a place to be mindful of your belongings. ATM card reading happens, so be aware when making withdrawals.
Problems with drugs, vandalism, theft, corruption, and bribery have all seen a moderate increase over the years. However, the overall numbers remain low. For example, in 2015 there were five homicides in comparison to four. Burglaries have dropped by 17% 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. Avoid parks after dark, and keep your wallet close to you in busy areas during tourist season. Normal safety precautions at home is a good idea.
Any victim of a crime should report the incident to the nearest police station and fill out a complaint. If there is a significant loss, the police report is necessary for the victim’s insurance company as evidence. If your bank or credit cards are stolen, block them immediately through the issuer; thieves often use them 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, report breakdowns and tows 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 the police force structure that is currently still being organized. 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. They are responsible for safeguarding internal security, maintaining law and order, border control, and law enforcement. These police also responsible assist the military with internal operations if needed.
Luxembourg’s police force operations has six regions under the command of a regional director of primary intervention centers (CIP), secondary intervention centers (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. 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 small, but there are laws to abide by and a civil law court system to uphold. In fact, the European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union, sits in Luxembourg.
Breaking the law in Luxembourg
The Constitution of Luxembourg consists of 121 articles and 13 chapters, including foundations of the country, the guarantee of citizens’ rights and liberties, and the organization of the powers. If you live in Luxembourg and there is a serious incident or someone you know is involved in a crime, 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 language you can understand. Courts pay attention to whether officers respect this 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 unrecognized by Luxembourg.
If you are an expat, you have the right to have your embassy or consulate informed about your arrest. You may also tell one person about your arrest, although there are exceptions to communication rights.
Getting a lawyer
Getting a lawyer in Luxembourg is important for representation, advising in criminal proceedings, and ensuring the protection of human rights. The Barreau de Luxembourg 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 occurs in 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 offense, major offense, and crime (contravention, delit, and crime). A minor offense is tried at police court by a single judge, but a major offense or a crime is tried at the district court by a panel of three judges (excluding traffic offenses). 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; the judge (or by the lawyer via the judge) asks questions in a Luxembourgish court.
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. 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 transfer to another country. If you do not understand German or French, you will receive an oral translator.
Court decisions can take two to three weeks once the trial has ended. If you are unhappy with your decision, appeals are possible, with new evidence. Make an appeal 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 for police to detain a suspect for a maximum of 24 hours. Afterwards, authorities must either release the suspect or take them to an investigative judge. If you are released it is necessary to give your residence address (and a bail fee). Anyone detained while awaiting trial can ask for a release in writing; a judge decides whether this is possible. If refused, you can appeal to the Court of Appeals. After release, it is not possible to travel 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 release 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 €50 of your fine. In 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.