What do the letters from the police stand for?
What is a subpoena
A summons is an invitation to appear in person before a government agency. Usually you get the summons by post, but it can also happen that you are summoned by the police over the phone. Usually the incident about which one is to be questioned is mentioned in the police letter. The letter also indicates whether one should take part in the hearing as a witness or as a suspect.
What do you have to do when you are called as a witness?
There are many posts on the internet claiming that you do not have to appear before the police. This statement is no longer up-to-date as the Code of Criminal Procedure was changed in August 2017. According to the current legal situation, a citizen who is summoned as a witness must go to the police and make a testimony if the police summons is based on an order from the public prosecutor. If the summons is not followed up without excuse, fines or even the arrest of the person can be ordered.
We can check the summons for you and clarify your rights and obligations.
An examination of a witness can in certain circumstances turn into an examination of the accused. For example, questions can be asked that make you suspicious if you answer them yourself. It may also turn out that you or your close relatives have committed a criminal offense in the situation that is being investigated. If there is a risk that facts will come to light during the interrogation that could give rise to suspicion against you, then you should definitely seek legal advice before the interrogation.
You can find more information about the witnesses' rights to refuse to give evidence and information here: Rights and duties of the witness in German criminal proceedings.
What do you have to do if you are charged as a suspect
When you receive a subpoena to question a suspect, you need to keep a cool head and do not rush into anything.
The summons means that you are under investigation. Law enforcement officials suspected you had committed a crime. The subject line of the letter of invitation contains the legal classification of the offense of which you are suspected. Sometimes the time and place of the crime are mentioned so that one can roughly imagine what the incident was. Usually, however, you have no idea what evidence the police have already brought against you and why people tend to believe that you have violated the criminal law. If you go to the police in this uncertain situation and give your point of view, you run the risk of making your defense much more difficult. When interviewing the police, one can very quickly become entangled in contradictions or give facts that can be refuted. In the worst case scenario, even if you are innocent, the questioning can go so wrong that your credibility is lost. Therefore, particular caution is required when receiving a summons to interrogate the accused. You do not have to appear in front of the police or provide any information. The Basic Law guarantees you the right to remain silent. Make use of it and do not be afraid that your silence can be interpreted to your detriment.
Our legal advice
Take every summons seriously and don't show up at the police appointment unprepared. If you get a summons for questioning, it is strongly recommended that you consult a criminal defense attorney. The testimony to the police usually sets the course for the criminal proceedings. Don't make mistakes and don't go to the police on your own. As a suspect, you will not be able to inspect the files and have no knowledge of the evidence. A criminal defense attorney can review the investigation findings and work with you to develop the defense strategy.
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