Written by Laura Baranik
As an expat living in Prague, you´re likely to end up spending a good deal of time at the cizinecká policie (foreign police). But what if you find yourself relying on the help of another of the Czech Republic´s police organs, the policie České republiky (state police)? Prague´s violent crime rate is generally low, but pick-pocketing and car thievery abound. Here´s what to do if you fall victim to a crime:
Notifying the police
You can approach any police officer on the street, but he will probably be a member of the municipal police (městská policie), who handle minor infractions such as traffic violations. The municipal police officer is obliged, however, to direct you to the nearest police station, where you can file a report. You can also telephone for help: 158 is the police contact number, but the general E.U. emergency number 112 will be guaranteed to have English-speaking operators. Both numbers are free and can be dialed from any phone.
If you are in a car accident, remember that you must not move your vehicle until there´s been a police inspection. If the cars have to be moved for purposes of safety, mark the position of each car with chalk or lipstick on the ground. In case of emergency, motorists can call road traffic assistance (UAMK) at 1240 or 261 104 123. They operate 24 hours a day and they can be called from highway telephones, located every two kilometers alongside the road. You can also flag down a UAMK van; they´re yellow and say silniční služba (road assistance).
The Police Station
Crimes are required to be reported at the main police station of the district in which the crime occurred. The police are obliged by law to provide you with an interpreter, but at most stations you will end up waiting while they search for a translator. Your best bet is to go to the station at Jungmannovo Náměstí 9, where they have an in-house translator who will escort you to the appropriate district station. After the report has been filed, you will be given a Police Report Crime Number.
For crimes specifically involving stolen property such as passports and wallets, you´ll need to go to the Malá Strana police station at Vlašská 3. They are open 24 hours and have English-speaking officers on hand.
Any police report should be filed within 24 hours of the crime´s occurrence. If you are concerned about being treated fairly, you have the right to be accompanied by a lawyer, who will ensure that your complaint is being handled according to the law. You can request that you be notified of any actions taken by the police for up to one month after the occurrence of the crime.
Upon investigating the alleged crime, the police may decide that criminal prosecution is warranted. According to Czech law, the victim has little say in whether or not a case will be brought to court – this is decided by the police under the supervision of the state attorney (státní zástupce), who subsequently prosecutes the matter in court against the defendant.
The victim of a crime may make a claim for compensation as part of the criminal proceedings; depending on the nature of the claim, you might wish to seek the services of a lawyer experienced in similar cases. It is advisable to make the compensatory claim to the police as soon as possible, since later you may only be able to seek damages in a separate civil court action.
If during your stay in the Czech Republic, you´re unlucky (or unclever) enough to feel the cold clamp of handcuffs around your wrists, know that as a foreigner, you have the right to the presence of an interpreter during any interrogation. You also have the right to speak privately with a lawyer and to have him or her present during any questioning – be aware, however, that the lawyer cannot give you advice on how to answer a question that´s already been asked.
Make sure that proper protocol is being followed by the police: they must note the time and place of your arrest, and if they do not have a court-issued warrant, they are obliged to release you after 48 hours. It would be wise to contact your embassy as soon as possible, since they will often have somebody on hand for dealing with just such an emergency.