The legislative powers of the police to stop individuals

Criminal police agents, and police officers in general, may identify any person that is in any public space, open to the public or subject to police surveillance, whenever there is serious grounds for suspecting that they have committed any criminal activity, as well as administrative offenses, are pending extradition or expulsion, have entered or remained irregularly in the national territory or in case there is a pending warrant of arrest against him/her. In exceptional circumstances, they may request the identification even of persons not suspected of having committed any crime (e.g. at airports and ports, stations, and in criminal prevention operations).

In the that identification cannot be established, or in the event of flagrante delicto, the police officer should conduct the suspect to the nearest police station and oblige him/her to remain there for the time strictly necessary to undergo identification and screening of criminal record. In any case, the suspect may not be kept in the police station in order to be identified for more than 6 hours. Exceptions exist when, concerning certain crimes, the person must be presented to a judge for the application of preventive measures. The citizen has given the right to contact a person.

Traffic stops are both random (for control purposes) or organized (with due suspicion). Officers may check the necessary documentation required for driving (ID, drivers license, mandatory car insurance, etc.), perform both alcohol and drug tests and check that the vehicle complies with safety requirements. However, unless the citizen voluntarily allows it, the police cannot search the interior of the vehicle itself without a court order. Exceptionally, if there is sufficient suspicion of criminal activity or serious or violent disruption of public order, the police may search the vehicle without prior judicial authorization in order to verify the presence of weapons, explosive or pyrotechnic devices, objects prohibited or likely to enable acts of violence, evidence of crime, and persons sought or in an irregular situation in the national territory or deprived of their liberty. And if weapons, ammunition, explosives or prohibited substances and objects are found, they can be seized. In such situations, the search must, in any case, be reported to the competent court as soon as possible.

The obligation to register stops

Regarding identification, there is no obligation to report on the stop unless evidence of a crime having been committed is found, in accordance with the code of Criminal procedure, articles 253 – 256.

As for traffic stops, information is registered and data is made available monthly.

There is no possibility to access statistical information on stop and search in Portugal in any other shape other than the traffic stops.

Legislation procedures which protect citizens from police offences

Article 13 of the Portuguese Constitution foresees the principle of equality. Several anti-discrimination laws have also been enacted.

Complaints regarding the Criminal Police can be made electronically, in person, by phone or fax. The General Inspection of Justice Services (IGSJ) will inform the person who filed the complaint about the status of the case and, ultimately, the outcome of the case. As for complaints against PSP and GNR, the citizen ought to file a criminal law suit against the police officer/s in question. The type of procedure will depend on the nature of the crime. Such complaint may be filed in the police station and/or before a public attorney (MP). It is up to the MP and the instructing judge to conduct the investigation and decide if there are grounds for taking the claim to a criminal court. Where the police officer is “accused”, an internal investigation regarding the performance of his/her duties is conducted. The order of this event does sometimes vary as several cases of police abuse become public. Upon having been informed of the eventual abuse by a police officer, the Police Department itself ought to start an internal investigation. The police officer is suspended from their functions during any criminal proceeding.


Annotated bibliography on Portugal