Rights of persons under arrest or charged with a crime and rights of victims

When coming into contact with the police or law enforcement authorities, everybody has rights that are protected by the Constitution of Estonia and the European Convention on Human Rights.

According to a generally recognised principle, everybody has the right to freedom and security of person. A person’s freedom can be restricted only in accordance with the law. All persons have the right to be present when their case is being deliberated, the right to refuse to testify against themselves or persons close to them, and the right to appeal a court judgement. A person cannot be convicted several times for the same offence.

Rights of persons under arrest and persons charged with a crime

A person under arrest has the right to:

  • learn of their rights
  • receive information in a language and manner they can understand
  • learn of the reason for the deprivation of their liberty at once
  • notify the persons close to them of the deprivation of their liberty (this right may be restricted in the interest of preventing a crime or investigating a crime)
  • not be held under arrest for more than 48 hours without a court’s permission
  • learn of the decision of the court at once
  • receive compensation in the event of breaching of rights.

A person charged with a crime has the right to:

  • receive information in a language and manner they can understand
  • be given the time and opportunity to defend themselves
  • defend themselves or choose a criminal defence counsel (also receive free legal aid if the accused lacks the means to pay for legal assistance)
  • cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses or have them cross-examined
  • summon and cross-examine witnesses
  • use the help of an interpreter, if necessary.

Specific criminal procedure legislation is available at the State Gazette portal. Summary of the most important rights and obligations and criminal procedure regulations is available at the European Union E-Justice portal.

Rights of victims

You will be considered a victim of crime if you have suffered damage, e.g. you have been injured or your property has been damaged or stolen, etc., as a result of an incident that constitutes a crime according to national law. As a victim of crime, the law grants you certain individual rights before, during and after court proceedings (trial).

Criminal proceedings in Estonia consist of investigation of the crime, which is carried out by the police and the prosecutor. At this stage evidence is collected about the offence committed and about the alleged offender. If the evidence is sufficient, the case goes to trial. The trial concludes with the court convicting or pronouncing the defendant not guilty and possibly ruling on the victim’s civil action against the offender for the damage the victim has sustained. There may be appeals before higher courts.

Further information of crime victims rights in Estonia is avaliable at the European Union E-Justice portal.

Last amended: 20-04-2017 00:00 | Compiled by: Ministry of Justice