Many people ask this question after receiving a letter from the police and being called as a witness. But is there a duty for witnesses to make a statement to the police? And under what conditions may a witness refuse to testify?
New regulation in the Code of Criminal Procedure
The "Law on the Effective and Practical Design of Criminal Procedure", which came into force on August 24.08.2017, 24.08.2017, has changed a large number of provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Before August XNUMX, XNUMX, a summons from the police could be ignored by both the accused and a witness. The duty to appear only in the context of a judicial or public prosecutor's examination.
With the entry into force of the new law, the essential provision - § 163 Paragraph 3 Clause 1 StPO - was changed and states: Witnesses are obliged to appear on charges before investigators of the public prosecutor's office and to testify on the matter if the charge is given Order of the public prosecutor underlying. So it is crucial that the public prosecutor has asked the police to question the witness.
The purpose of this new regulation
The redesign of section 163 (3) sentence 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is intended to relieve the already overburdened public prosecutor's office a little, because instead of a charge for "public prosecutor's interrogation", which logically a public prosecutor himself has to carry out, the police can now be instructed to do so to question the person. At the same time, however, this means that if there is no order from the public prosecutor's office, the witness is still not obliged to appear at the police. In this respect, the old legal situation remains.
In summary, this means that for you as a witness, you only have to follow a summons to the police if the public prosecutor has ordered your questioning. If this is not the case, you do not have to appear.
When can I, as a witness, refuse to testify?
Testimonies play a significant role in criminal proceedings. In particular, if the accused makes use of his right to refuse to testify and does not become involved, the court often needs meaningful testimony to be able to convict the accused.
However, under certain conditions, a witness can refuse to testify. The legislator recognizes that certain witnesses can be in conflict of conscience and therefore grants you a so-called “right to refuse to testify”. In particular, if there is a close connection between the witness and the accused, a witness should not be forced to make an incriminating statement to the police or to the court.
According to § 52 StPO both fiancee and spouse, but also parents, grandparents, children, siblings, uncles and aunts, brother-in-law or sister-in-law but also stepchildren can refuse to testify. It is important to mention at this point that step-siblings have no right to refuse to testify among themselves and are therefore not allowed to refuse to testify.
However, not only family members but also certain professional groups have the right to refuse to testify. Section 53 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that clergymen, doctors, lawyers, tax advisors and others can also refuse to testify.
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