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The Suspect / Accused / Defendant

Anyone who is suspected of having committed a crime is called a suspect. This requires actual indications giving rise to a so-called initial suspicion. Such a suspicion can result, for example, if a report is made to the police. If the authorities now start to investigate the suspect, he is called the accused. This is an important distinction, as the accused has certain rights and duties. For example: the accused has to be read his rights. If the main proceedings are opened after the conclusion of the investigation, the accused becomes the defendant.

The accused/defendant has the following rights:

  • Right to be heard: The accused is entitled to respond to the accusations.
  • Right to the statutory judge: The competent judge for the criminal proceedings must be determined in advance.
  • Right to remain silent: The accused can remain silent in regard of the accusations.
  • Right to a legal defence: The accused may at any time during the proceedings appoint a counsel of his choice to defend him. He is entitled to have his counsel present while he is questioned.
  • Information rights: The accused has to be informed about the accusations against him at the beginning of his first hearing. At this time he has also to be informed about his rights in the proceedings.
  • Right to be present: The accused is entitled to be present for certain measures during the investigation (for example, at a judicial hearing of witnesses) and is obligated to be present at the main court proceedings.
  • Right to put questions: The accused may ask questions during the main court proceedings.
  • Last word: After the closing arguments of the main court proceedings, the accused has the last word.
  • Right of appeal: A person convicted of an offence is entitled to file appeals against investigatory measures (for example a search) and against burdensome judgments.