In a search, the investigating officers look for specific evidence that the occupant refuses to disclose or hand over voluntarily. An initial suspicion is sufficient grounds for a search warrant. This means there must be some actual indication – not evidence at this stage! – that a crime has been committed or attempted. A judicial search warrant must be in place for a search to be performed. In “exigent circumstances”, the public prosecutor’s office can initiate a search itself, but only in exceptional cases.
The purpose of a search is generally to find evidence in the business premises and apartments of the suspect(s) if there is an initial suspicion that a crime has been committed. As a rule, searches are also carried out on
which are seized for this purpose in the course of a house search, so that they can be secured at the premises of the investigating authorities.
In principle, police officers, tax office officials and customs officers are all permitted to search. The officers are obliged to identify themselves.
Not only the suspects themselves can be searched. Third parties may also be involved if there is reason to believe that there may be evidence on their premises. Basically, therefore, anyone can be subject to a house search.
In the event of a search, persons concerned have the right to legal assistance. This right should by all means be exercised. The authorities may not refuse to allow you to make the necessary phone call.
A lawyer can check whether the formal requirements for the house search have been met and be present during the house search in order to ensure that the procedural rights of the suspect are respected. Furthermore, the lawyer usually knows which questions have to be answered, in which cases it is opportune to answer and in which cases it is wiser for a suspect to exercise their right to silence. Seemingly harmless questions are often based on tactical investigative methodology, and careless statements are difficult or impossible to rectify later. Suspects are often surprised at the significance of their statements made during a house search and the extent to which these make the subsequent defence more difficult, even if they were ostensibly made with the intention of demonstrating willingness to cooperate, to refute the criminal charge or to ameliorate the atmosphere.
In addition, persons concerned have the right to remain silent (as a rule, it is advisable to exercise this right!), to ask to see the officers’ ID and to be given the search warrant. The officers on site must also give the suspect a list of the confiscated items.
If officers have arrived at your door, or if you have otherwise been informed of a search at your premises, the following checklist can give you some initial general guidelines on what to do:
Searching companies and especially banks is common practice for tax officials and customs officers. For compliance reasons and in order to mitigate damage, companies should therefore seek preventive advice on how to behave during a search and, if necessary – depending on the size and risk level of the company – draw up emergency plans.
Particularly for companies that work with (sensitive) customer data, the seizure of documents/computer systems can have serious consequences, especially if too many documents/data are handed over and/or if it was not necessary to hand over the data (to this extent) or the search warrant was unlawful in this respect. Since the examination of the documents can often take several weeks or even months, companies can run into difficulties that threaten their livelihood if, for example, contract documents are missing or accounting procedures cannot be carried out or annual financial statements cannot be prepared, thus leading to potential surcharges for late payment or even fines.
It can also be detrimental if information is shared among employees, who are not prepared for a search, in an uncontrolled manner. Plans for searches should therefore specify contact persons, so that no unnecessary attention is drawn to the procedure.
Being well prepared for the worst-case scenario can prevent greater damage to the company's finances and reputation.
We support companies in the event of all types of searches with the following range of services:
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