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U.S. Citizen Victims of Crime
 

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Being the victim of a crime in a foreign country can be a devastating and traumatic experience. 

While no one can undo the emotional trauma, physical injury, or financial loss you may have experienced, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa is very concerned about crimes commited against U.S. citizens, and we are ready to help. You can start by contacting the Embassy at:

(504) 2238-5114 ext. 4400 (during regular business hours)
(504) 2236-9320 ext. 4100 (for after-hours emergencies)

The links below provide some basic information on how the Embassy can help you if you are the victim of a crime, and on the Honduran legal system. We also provide you with a list of attorneys in Honduras who may be able to represent you in court.

Sexual Assault and Rape
Domestic Violence
Child Abuse
Kidnapping
Homicide

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Introduction: What we can and cannot do

We will assist you in managing the practical consequences of being a crime victim and provide you with information about accessing the local criminal justice system, as well as other resources for crime victims abroad and in the United States. We can also help you to better understand the criminal justice system in Honduras, which is very different from the system in the United States.

The information included in this guide relating to the legal requirements in Honduras is provided for general information purposes only. Questions involving the interpretation of Honduran laws should be addressed to legal counsel licensed to practice law in Honduras. The investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, and the U.S. Embassy cannot interfere in the local judicial process.

Please read the Department of State's page for victims of crime overseas for more details on what we can and cannot do to help victims of crimes.

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Reporting a Crime

Victims of crime can file police reports or register complaints at the local investigative police (Dirección Nacional de Investigación Criminal) in the jurisdiction where the crime took place. There are no special police officers that assist foreigners. Police reports must be filed by the victim as soon as possible. The victims will receive a copy of the report. Police does not provide interpreters. 

If the victim has left the country, they may file a report with the Police or the District Attorney's Office through a letter. The crime may also be reported to the U.S. Embassy which in return can file it with the Police or the District Attorney.

If you have difficulties filing your police report with an official, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately. You may need a police report to file for crime victim compensation or insurance reimbursement. 

If you do decide to file a report, please send a copy to us, along with your address and phone number in the event we need to communicate with you. While we are not authorized to act as your legal representative, prosecutor or investigator, our office can help you track the progress of your case and advise you of any developments.

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Hiring an Attorney

The U.S. Embassy can monitor your case, but we cannot provide legal representation, investigate crimes, or provide you with legal guidance.

As such, you should consider hiring a local attorney for appropriate guidance. Legal procedures in Honduras differ significantly from those in the United States. Although the District Attorney's Office (Ministerio Público) is responsible for prosecuting your case, your attorney can promote your interests with the police and the court. 

While the Embassy cannot recommend specific law firms or lawyers, we provide you a list of attorneys who have expressed interest in representing U.S. citizens.

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Victim Compensation in Honduras

In Honduras, there is no national crime victim assistance office, and the Honduran government does not provide monetary compensation to crime victims. Unfortunately, the U.S. Embassy does not offer any victim compensation programs either.

However, some cities and communities in the United States do offer victim compensation programs for U.S. citizens who are victims of crimes overseas. You can find information about each state's compensation program and how to apply for benefits at the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board website.

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Hiring Private Security

U.S. citizens who feel as though they are in danger, have been directly threatened by a group or individual, or who have special security concerns, should consider hiring the services of a private security firm while they are in Honduras.

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Special Cases

Many crimes fall under special categories in Honduras, and may be treated differently and require different standards of evidence in Honduras. Please read the following cases carefully if they apply to you.

Sexual Assault and Rape

There are no rape crisis hotlines in Honduras. However, U.S. citizens may find additional resources for victims of sexual assault in the United States.

In addition, you should seek medical attention immediately if you have been the victim of rape or sexual assault, even if you do not plan on reporting the crime to the police or pressing charges. We provide a list of local hospitals where most doctors have their offices.

Physical evidence is very important in sexual assault cases and can deteriorate as time passes. As such, victims should not change clothes, avoid bathing if possible and have a physical exam at the first opportunity. 

You should take these steps even if you are unsure about whether to report the crime to police. If you decide to pursue a prosecution at a later time, these steps preserve evidence that will assist the prosecutor. A consular officer or after-hours duty officer from the U.S. Embassy may be able to accompany victims of sexual assault for the medical exam.

Forensic sexual assault exams are ordered by the Public Ministry. However, not all cities have access to this type of examination and therefore, they are not always ordered. When ordered, these exams are performed by a medical forensic doctor at their office. These exams normally include a pelvic exam, physical collection of body specimens for evidentiary purposes and blood samples. Pregnancy and HIV testing are also performed. Victims are allowed to bring a support person throughout the examination. These examinations are free of charge.

If the victim decides not to have a medical exam, rape/sexual assault charges can still be filed. However, if there is no other evidence, it may affect the outcome of the trial.

You should get medical attention to determine if you have been injured in any way and to discuss treatment and prevention options for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Emergency contraception (the morning-after pill) is available in Honduras. HIV prophylaxis is also available.

The victim will be initially interviewed by the police and by the prosecutors and will be later cross examined by the defense attorney and the judge at the trial. Acquaintance rape (date rape) is considered rape as well as spousal rape. There are no special considerations for male sexual assault, it is legally considered the same as female sexual assault and prosecuted the same way.

There are no laws that protect the identity of sexual assault survivors, except when the victim is a minor. Media attention is always a possibility, but not customary.

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Domestic Violence

There are no domestic violence hotlines in Honduras. However, U.S. citizens may find additional resources for the victims of domestic voilence in the United States.

There are two categories of Domestic Violence in Honduras, "Violencia Doméstica" and "Violencia Intrafamiliar".

"Violencia Doméstica" does not involve physical injury and is considered a civil matter not a crime. Whenever a police report is filed under this category, the aggressor will be detained for a few hours and a protection/restraining order may be issued.

"Violencia Intrafamiliar" involves physical injury and is considered a crime. Once the police report is filed, the aggressor will be detained and trial procedures will be initiated. A protection/restraining order can also be obtained under this category. If the aggressor violates the order, the victim must file a new police report. 

There are very few domestic violence shelters in Honduras at this time. The U.S. Embassy is only aware of two, one in the city of La Ceiba and another in Tegucigalpa. These shelters are run by NGOs and have private security. They may house around 15 people at a time. They do not usually take clients on a walk-in basis, a referral by local authorities or other entities is usually requested. Children are allowed in the shelters if accompanied by their mother. 

Stalking is considered a crime in Honduras if the stalker is an authority figure (i.e, teacher, boss, etc).

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Child Abuse

The Honduran government authority responsible for the protection of children is the "Instituto Hondureño de la Niñez y la Familia (IHNFA)". Child abuse allegations are investigated by the Distric Attorney's Office. Child abuse may be reported by anyone through a phone call, a letter or by filing a police report. A child who has been removed from his or her home is placed at an IHNFA orphanage. 

The Police's forensic laboratories will provide physical and psychological evaluations for abused children only, and the results of said evaluations can be used at a trial. If the abuser is charged, the child will be expected to testify. Special accommodations for the child to minimize the trauma of testifying are sometimes provided.

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Kidnapping

Any cases of kidnapping of a U.S. citizen should be reported to the U.S. Embassy immediatley.

Kidnappings are investigated by the local criminal investigative police (DNIC). The U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Office is the primary liaison with the U.S. and Honduran authorities in kidnapping cases. 

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Homicide

Autopsies are required in all homicide cases. If the estate of the victim is seized by the Honduran authorities as evidence, the release of these effects will not become available until the trial is over. If the personal effects of a victim are not seized by the authorities, the U.S. Embassy can assist the family with the disposition of the estate. The U.S. Embassy has made arrangements with the Honduran Attorney General's office to create a special vetted unit that deals with criminal cases involving U.S. citizens.

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Timeline of a Crime in Honduras

Many crime investigations never result in the arrest of a suspect. Collection of forensic evidence is not a common practice in Honduras. The victim may obtain information about the progress of the investigation through the investigative police, and the victim should report threats, harassment or intimidation directly to them. A case for which an arrest warrant has not been issued, may remain open the amount of time plus half of the equivalent maximum sentence of the crime.

Arrests

Not all suspects are detained until the trial; some may be released on personal recognizance, depending on the crime. The victim is usually not notified of the arrest. The victim will be asked to identify the perpetrator in-person or in a procedure similar to a police lineup.

Pretrial Period

The prosecutor's office (Ministerio Público, also known as Fiscalía) decides if charges will be filed and if the case will go to trial. They will also be responsible for the prosecution. Criminal courts have jurisdiction in criminal cases and the victim is represented by the prosecutor's office. Plea bargains are possible during the pre-trial period and on the first day of the trial.

Trial

Trials usually only last a couple of days. However, the time that elapses between the time of the arrest and the time of the trial may take up to two years. In some cases, the victim is required to return to Honduras once for the arraignment hearing and then again for the trial. 

Trials are open to the general public, including media; consular officers may be present as well. Due to lack of funding, the Honduran judicial system usually asks victims to bring their own translators. The ruling court consists of three magistrates, no jury. 

There are only a few special protocol requirements in the courtroom, such as standing when the judge enters the courtroom, turning off cell phones, not speaking during the trial. No one is permitted to enter or leave the courtroom once the trial has begun.

Sentencing

The verdict will be rendered immediately after the close of the trial or the following day. The sentence will be pronounced at a separate hearing within 30 days of the verdict. The victim will not be notified when the perpetrator is transferred or released.

Appeals

The accused may appeal the court's decision and/or sentence.  An appeal can take up to two years. The decision made by the court of appeals can also be appealed, prolonging the case for another two years. Appeals in Honduras are written not oral. Therefore, the victim does not have to testify again.

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