A Denuncia is a formal legal complaint that is required to be submitted to a local police station when you have been the victim of a crime. The ‘Denuncia Form’ is a standard document that the police complete in your presence. Depending on the circumstances of the crime the local police may also request that you file a more formal ‘Denuncia’ at your nearest local courthouse (fiscaleria).
Reasons why you should always file a Denuncia:
• The police need an accurate measure of the amount of crime being committed in an area to be able to justify adding extra personnel or police presence when it is warranted.
• When following up on a crime and questioning or searching a suspect, if there is no record of what has been stolen, the police cannot make an arrest even if they find what they suspect are stolen goods in the possession of that person. Furthermore the stolen goods are much harder to recover if there is no ‘Denuncia’ filed. To put it clearly “if there is no ‘Denuncia there is no crime’ in the eyes of the law.
• The more ‘Denuncias’ there are that indicate a certain suspect is involved in those crimes, the more likely the police and courts can seek a conviction and the suspect jailed.
• If you are not fluent in the Spanish language, take someone with you to help. It is difficult to relate important and accurate details in a foreign language.
• When signing the form at the bottom of the page also sign directly underneath the last line of the ‘Narracion de Hechos’ (Narrative of Facts) to avoid anything being added after you have confirmed the details.
• If you feel you are not being treated fairly and properly by a particular police officer, ask for and write down his full name and badge number. You will usually see a change in attitude after that.
• If you want your report to remain confidential, state this at the beginning.
• The local police send a copy of the ‘Denuncia’ to the OIJ (Organismo de Investigación Judicial) which is very important. To make sure they receive a copy you can deliver one yourself. You may also complete a ‘Denuncia’ directly with the OIJ.
• Note: The OIJ (Judicial Investigation Organization) is a higher level and separate, independent entity from the local police (Fuerza Publica) and is basically the Department of Criminal Investigation unit of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica. Please note that only the OIJ will investigate a crime. It is not the job of the local police (Fuerza Publica) to investigate.
• Make sure the police give you one of the copies of the completed ‘Denuncia’. It is usually produced in triplicate with carbon copies or photocopied. Make sure it is legible.
• Provide as much detailed information as possible. Regarding stolen items: make, color, serial number etc.
• Do not touch or move anything at the scene of the crime before OIJ officers arrive. As part of their investigation, the OIJ will want to review the scene and record evidence of any fingerprints that might have been left behind by the criminals.
Phone numbers for OIJ:
Cortez: 2788 8549 2788 8649 San Isidro: 2785 0378 Quepos: 2777 1511