Costa Rica Lawyers & Law – The Four Parties in the Criminal Justice System

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  1. The Police Force
  2. The Prosecutor
  3. The Accused
  4. The Victim

1. The Police Force:

Costa Rica has several independent police departments each charged with different duties. The largest police contingency, the Fuerza Publica is under the control of the Ministry of Police and Public Security (Ministerio de Gobernacion, Policia y Seguridad Publica). They are responsible for the protection of national sovereignty, citizen security, crime prevention and response. The most typical example of this is the patrol officer that patrols the streets in metropolitan San Jose. In the capital city of San Jose the structure of this branch of the police department was revamped in 2001.

The program implemented a community based police unit that would be more in tune with events that are happening in the community where they are assigned. To that end eighteen different police units were created to patrol eighteen specific areas within metropolitan San Jose. The new police units are known locally as Deltas. See Figure E for contact information for the Judicial Investigation Bureau and the Community Police Patrol for selected areas.

Other police units that are part of the Ministry of Police and Public Security include the Rural Guard (Guardia Rural) which serves in the rural areas of Costa Rica; the Immigration Police (Policia de Inmigracion y Extranjeria) which is responsible for enforcing Costa Rican immigration laws; the Border Police (Policia de Fronteras) which are in charge of patrolling the borders; and the Drug Enforcement Police (Polica del Control de Drogas) which are specialized in policing drug related offenses.

Some local municipal governments have created their own municipal police force (Policia Municipal) which is under the administration of the local municipal government. This police force only has jurisdiction within their territorial limit.

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The police force that conducts criminal investigations is the Judicial Investigation Bureau (Organismo de Investigación Judicial) which is under the direct control of the Ministry of Justice. The Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that the judicial police (O.I.J) shall work under the direction and control of the prosecutor to (1) Investigate all public crimes; (2) prevent the commission of crimes; (3) individualize the participants and perpetrators of criminal offenses; (4) gather all evidence necessary to substantiate a criminal indictment; (5) carry out all other functions stipulated by law. If you are a victim of a crime it will be the Judicial Investigation Bureau that will be charged with investigating your complaint.

The Ministry of the Treasury also has it’s own police force, the Fiscal Police (Policia Fiscal) to investigate violations of Costa Rica’s tax and customs laws and the Executive Branch (President) has under it’s direction the Directorate of Intelligence and National Security (DIS).

When you drive a vehicle on the Costa Rican roads then you will be under the jurisdiction of the Transit Police. This police force is under the direction of the Ministry of Public Works (M.O.P.T.) and they are responsible for the enforcement of Costa Rican traffic laws. The officer is referred to locally as oficial de transito or trafico.

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Costa Rica Attorney Video Interviews. To help educate and protect you with your real estate investments in Costa Rica, you can enjoy the following interviews with Attorney Roger Petersen and Attorney Rick Philps online at:

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Written by Attorney at Law – Roger A. Petersen. Roger has been an attorney since 1992 and is a member of both the Costa Rican and Florida Bar. He practices law in San José, Costa Rica and is the author of the best-selling book ‘The Legal Guide To Costa Rica.’

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