Are there any behaviours which, within the context of a public health epidemiological crisis, could be punishable under criminal law? And under administrative offense law?

Within the context of a public health epidemiological crisis, offences against public health are of particular relevance.

In this context, the breach of the rules regarding the closure of services and compliance with schedules, hygiene and safety, provided for in Decree-Law no. 07/20 and further legislation, may constitute a crime against public health and a crime of disobedience under criminal law.


Can a person be arrested in case of breach of the rules on self-isolation laid down in Decree-Law no. 10/20?

In the event of a breach of the rules on general and mandatory confinement, the competent authorities shall instruct the citizen to return home in an educated manner. Failure to respect this order constitutes a crime of disobedience, punishable under criminal law, and may lead to immediate arrest.


Can an infected person be punished if they infect someone?

Yes, if contagion is intentional or if, at least, the infected person anticipates that others could infect through its behaviour.  The Criminal Code defines as crime of spreading contagious disease, the conduct of someone who is infected and, knowingly, intentionally infects others.  


Can a company or any officer be held liable for failing to adopt preventive measures arising from the authorities' guidelines, namely as regards to public health?

Yes. Liability may arise from failure to comply with the general duty of assistance laid down by law, according to which, in a situation of public calamity or common danger, the aid necessary to remove the danger must be provided.

Another cause of liability could be failure to comply with or to obey the preventive measures decreed by the authorities, to the extent that it is subsequently demonstrated that such failure contributed to the spread of the disease.

The company or its officers may also be charged with a crime of disobedience, which will be automatic in a state of emergency and will have to be expressly imposed in order of the authority or legislative act in the other cases.


Can a company repudiate its regulatory regulations during the epidemiological crisis?

Usually no, unless there is legislation to the contrary. It should be noted, however, that the general principles of exclusion of guilt provided for in sanctioning legislation, namely exculpatory need and conflict of duties, remain in force and can be invoked.

In the event of any situation where, for pressing reasons, it is not possible to comply with the regulatory obligations or guidelines of the authorities, it is advisable to preserve all documentation and information that would enable proving the lawfulness of the failure to comply or delay in complying with the obligation or order.


Are the criminalization and aggravation of sanctions determined by legislative instrument during the epidemiological crisis applicable to ongoing cases or to acts committed before the crisis?

No. Criminal law does not apply retroactively, which means that the criminalization or the creation of administrative offenses during the epidemiological crisis is only possible after its entry into force and never in relation to situations that occurred at an earlier time.


And decriminalization?

Situations created in the crisis, with a view to not punishing certain events in which in normal circumstances they would be punished are only valid for the period expressly stipulated in the law creating the derogation regime and cannot be claimed outside this circumstance.




This information is being updated on a regular basis.

The information provided and the opinions expressed herein have been prepared with the help of VdA Legal Partners and are of a general nature. They are not in lieu of appropriate legal advice in connection with specific cases.