About hate crimes
A hate crime is a crime committed against someone because of their ethnic origin, nationality, race, religion, sexuality or political beliefs.
A hate crime is a criminal offence in Bulgaria, and perpetrators receive stricter punishments than those who commit a regular crime. Punishment includes imprisonment from 1 to 4 years, a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 leva, and a public announcement of the crime in the local newspaper or municipality website.
Using media to disseminate or to provoke discrimination, violence or hatred on the grounds of race, nationality or ethnic origin, is also a crime.
Where can I report a hate crime?
You can report it to the police by:
- Calling 112
- Going to the nearest police station
You can also report a hate crime directly to the prosecutor’s office by:
- Going to the nearest prosecutor’s office
- Sending an email or a complaint in written form
You can find the contact details of the prosecutor’s office closest to you in Bulgarian here.
How do I report a hate crime?
You can report a hate crime orally or on a written form that you sign. When reporting, you have to tell the police your full name and contact information, such as your address and phone number. The police will not take anonymous reports into consideration.
It is very important to describe what happened in as much detail as possible. Here are some tips on how you can do it:
- Point out when and where the crime happened.
- Mention if there were any witnesses.
- Describe the perpetrator if you could see him/her, or you know who he/she is (for example any distinctive features such as tattoos and height).
- Specify whether the perpetrator used insulting words related to your origin or beliefs, to prove that the crime was motivated by prejudice.
What happens after I report a hate crime?
If there is enough information to determine that you were the victim of a hate crime, the prosecutor will start a criminal procedure. During this procedure, the police and the prosecutor will:
- Conduct an investigation
- Collect more evidence
- Question the witnesses, the suspected perpetrator and the victim
However, the prosecutor may refuse to start a criminal procedure if they determine that your experience wasn’t a hate crime. In this case, they will inform you about the refusal and you can submit an appeal to the higher prosecutor. There is no time limit for submitting this appeal.
What to expect from the investigation
The investigation usually lasts for 2 months, but can last for more than 6 months if the case is very complicated.
The prosecutor will bring the case to the court if he/she is certain that there is enough evidence to determine a hate crime was committed, and if they know who the perpetrator is.
Evidence can be:
- Objects that the perpetrator used to commit the crime or which contain traces of the crime (for example, the knife the perpetrator used)
- Photos, video records, audio records
- Explanations from the witnesses and the accused person
It’s important to explain that the perpetrator used violence against you because of your origin, orientation, religion or political beliefs.
The court procedure and your rights
Two months after the prosecutor files the indictment in court, the judge will schedule the first hearing. During this hearing, the judge will decide whether to continue or stop the court procedure. If the court procedure continues, the court will decide whether the accused person is guilty or innocent.
You can seek legal help and appeal the decision of the prosecutor within 7 days and the verdict of the court within 15 days.
It is important to consult a lawyer who is specialized in criminal law. Here are some tips on how to find a good lawyer.
During the criminal procedure, you have the right:
- To be informed about your rights and the course of the criminal procedure
- To receive protection for your security and for the security of your loved ones
- To make requests, observations and objections
- To appeal the acts that lead to termination or suspension of the criminal procedure
- To have a lawyer and an interpreter
- To receive a written translation of the criminal procedure’s termination or suspension, if you don’t speak Bulgarian
The court can forbid the accused perpetrator to approach you, make any contact with you, and visit certain areas where you live or visit. For this to happen, you as a victim or the prosecutor with your consent can require the court to issue safety measures. The court will immediately examine this request.
You can access these rights only if you explicitly request to participate in the criminal procedure and indicate an address for receiving notifications.
How you can claim financial compensation
You have the right to claim financial compensation for the damages you suffered, but only if you submit a request to the court to participate in the procedure as a civil claimant or a private accuser.
A civil claimant is a person who has suffered psychological or physical damage as a result of a crime and participates in the court procedure claiming financial compensation. A private accuser is the victim who presents evidence against the perpetrator before the court in order to prove the perpetrator's guilt.
You have 7 days after receiving a notice for the first court hearing to write this request. You can seek legal help in this process too.