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Breaking Down Barriers: A Right to Report Crimes in Switzerland and Globally, No Strings Attached

Aktualisiert: 23. Sept. 2023

The Universal Right to report crimes for which you do not need a lawyer.


Breaking Down Barriers: A Right to Report Crimes in Switzerland and Globally, No Strings Attached
Breaking Down Barriers: A Right to Report Crimes in Switzerland and Globally, No Strings Attached

In the realm of criminal justice, misconceptions can lead to unnecessary complications and misunderstandings. A recent interaction with a representative from a top Swiss lawyer's office brought to light one such misconception that warrants clarification.



The representative, whom we'll refer to as "Lawyer" for the sake of this discussion, held the belief that the right to file a criminal complaint, as outlined in the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure, is not applicable when done professionally. This perspective seems to stem from a conflation between 'paid legal representation' in court proceedings and the fundamental act of reporting a crime. It's crucial to understand that the Swiss-EU Lawyer Act primarily governs court representations within Switzerland's borders, not extending its jurisdiction to the EU, the Russian Federation, or the USA.


The Universal Right to Report Crimes

Art. 301 Abs. 1. – Abs. 3. of the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code is clear and unequivocal in its stance. It states that any individual has the right to report an offense to a criminal justice authority. This provision does not draw distinctions based on one's professional status, whether the reporting is done on a paid or unpaid basis. In essence, the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code ensures that everyone, regardless of their professional background or standing, possesses the right to report a crime.

The Swiss Federal Court (Bundesgericht) solidified this right in decision number BGer 6B_200/2018 dated August 8, 2018. The court stated that "Any person is entitled to report criminal offenses to a law enforcement agency or state prosecutors in writing or orally (Art. 301 StPO). General knowledge as known is assumed." Link 1 / Link 2


In contrast to many European countries where mandatory legal representation is required for specific legal matters, Switzerland follows a distinct approach. In Switzerland, there is no obligation to hire an attorney, even for activities such as court hearings. This essentially means that individuals have the freedom to represent themselves in court proceedings and submit documents to the court without the requirement of legal counsel. This characteristic sets Switzerland apart in terms of its legal system compared to many other European nations.


However, it's essential to highlight a crucial exception to this general freedom, which applies to criminal proceedings. In criminal cases, the presence of legal representation by an attorney becomes mandatory if the situation meets the criteria of "necessary defense," as stipulated in Article 130 of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO). This means that when an individual's legal rights and interests are at stake in a criminal case, and their defense necessitates the expertise of an attorney, legal representation becomes obligatory.


It's important to note that this obligation for legal representation in criminal proceedings is distinct from the process of filing a criminal complaint or reporting a crime to law enforcement authorities. These initial steps, undertaken on behalf of a crime victim, occur before the formal criminal process commences and do not necessarily involve the engagement of an attorney.


For further insights into the engagement of lawyers and the absence of a lawyer monopoly in Switzerland, you can explore more detailed information on the subject at www.goanwalt.ch. This resource sheds light on the unique aspects of the Swiss legal system in comparison to other European countries, emphasizing the significance of individual rights and freedoms within Switzerland's legal framework.

The Universal Right to Report Crimes
The Universal Right to Report Crimes

The professional representation by lawyers for victims in criminal proceedings

The professional representation by lawyers in criminal proceedings primarily concerns those who appear as defendants or accused individuals in a criminal case. However, the situation is different for victims of crimes.


For victims, professional representation by lawyers typically begins after they have filed a criminal complaint and the criminal proceedings have been initiated. In most cases, victims first submit a complaint to the relevant law enforcement authorities, who then initiate the necessary investigations. During this investigative phase, the interests of the victim are usually represented by the law enforcement agencies.


Only when the criminal case goes to court or when the victim becomes otherwise involved in the proceedings, it may become advisable to engage a lawyer for professional representation. This can be the case, for instance, when the victim needs to testify as a witness or wishes to pursue claims for damages.


It is crucial to emphasize that the rights and interests of victims are protected within the Swiss legal system. Law enforcement authorities have an obligation to consider the interests of victims and keep them informed about the progress of the proceedings. Over the course of the proceedings, victims can decide whether they require legal assistance in the form of a lawyer.


In summary, professional representation by lawyers in criminal proceedings in Switzerland typically becomes relevant for victims after they have filed a criminal complaint and the criminal investigations have commenced. The specific circumstances may vary depending on the case, and the decision on whether legal support is necessary lies with the victim and can be made at a later stage in the proceedings. This highlights the flexibility and individualized nature of the Swiss legal system in dealing with victims of crimes.


Inclusive Definitions

Under Swiss law, when the term "person" is used in the context of reporting criminal offenses to law enforcement agencies or state prosecutors, it encompasses both private individuals (private persons) and legal entities such as companies or non-governmental organizations (judicial persons). This means that not only individual citizens but also corporate entities, NGOs, and Associations have the legal right to report criminal offenses to the authorities, whether in writing or verbally, as specified in Article 301 of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO).


Practical Application

We spoke with Global Operations of Swiss Security Solutions LLC, and they confirmed that they have always operated within this legal framework. They have not only reported crimes when necessary but have also diligently fulfilled their obligations to cooperate with criminal justice authorities. Contrary to the "Lawyer's" assertion, there has to be a mandate or specific authorization on the side of private detective agencies required to file a criminal complaint in Switzerland, and only lawyers have this monopoly according to Art. 2. Swiss-EU Lawyer Act. This right to file a criminal complaint or crime report is universal, ensuring that justice is accessible to all, irrespective of whether the reporting entity receives professional compensation or not.


Understanding Legal Roles

This episode underscores the importance of clear communication and understanding, especially when navigating the intricate corridors of Swiss law. It serves as a reminder that while legal nuances can be complex, they are rooted in principles of justice, fairness, and accessibility for all.


Distinction Between Legal Authorities

The Swiss-EU Lawyer Act primarily applies to individuals representing parties before judicial authorities in Switzerland and has no bearing on criminal justice authorities, especially those outside of Switzerland. The judicial authorities operate within the court system and focus on the adjudication of cases, ensuring that the law is applied fairly and consistently. On the other hand, criminal justice authorities are responsible for enforcing and maintaining law and order, investigating, and prosecuting individuals who are suspected of violating criminal laws. These roles are distinct and separate, each serving a crucial function within the legal system.


Conclusion

While lawyers do have a significant role in the legal system in Switzerland or EU/EFTA, they do not have an absolute monopoly on all legal services, which is supported by the Swiss-EU Legal Act. The term 'paid legal representation' refers to representation in criminal court proceedings and civil court proceedings, and the Swiss-EU Lawyer Act pertains to court representations in Switzerland, not in the EU, the Russian Federation, or the USA.


In summary, Art. 301 Abs. 1-3 of the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code clearly states that anyone has the right to report an offense to a criminal justice authority. There is no requirement for a mandate or authorization to file a criminal complaint. In Switzerland, any person, whether acting privately or professionally (whether paid or unpaid), can file a criminal complaint if they believe a crime has been committed. The right to report a crime is universal and accessible to all, ensuring justice is upheld.


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