Searches ("dawn raids") of companies and private individuals

Searches (Sections 102, 103 et seq. of the German Code of Criminal Procedure) are investigative measures that significantly interfere with the fundamental rights of the persons concerned, the accused and also third parties. In criminal proceedings, searches of companies, defendants or third parties are quite common.

These searches (sometimes also called "dawn raids") are accompanied by significant negative effects. If, for example, a company is affected by a search, the search itself often causes image losses among customers, business partners and employees that are difficult to repair later. This problem is exacerbated by negative, often prejudicial press coverage.

do's & don'ts clearly and comprehensibly to those affected and to make concrete recommendations for action - whether before, during or after a search.

At the request of companies seeking pre-field advice for reasons of employee welfare or general compliance considerations, for example, we conduct legally compliant employee training and prepare investigation guidelines for management and staff.

The situation on the spot...

The intended effect of surprise has the consequence that affected persons often face a multitude of investigating officers from the police and public prosecutor's office, customs or tax authorities completely unexpectedly and alone. Due to these factors, it is hardly possible to exercise one's rights without the support of a lawyer. In this context, the course for the later proceedings can already be set during the search measure. This is true in both a positive and a negative sense. Thus, statements made "off the record" will also end up in the search protocol, and accidental findings will lead to new proceedings.
Less invasive measures can be enforced on site with competent advice, such as backing up data on site without taking the IT equipment with you or making copies, for example to ensure that a company can continue to operate.

Most important, however, is to ensure that only what may be taken is actually taken on site.

Legal basis of searches

The legal basis of the search is usually a court search warrant (exception: imminent danger). The warrant contains the reasons for the search, in particular the accusation made. At the same time, it specifies the scope of the measure carried out. Only the premises and, if applicable, persons named in the warrant may be searched. Often there are also time restrictions. If the warrant stipulates that only documents from specific periods may be searched, as a rule only these documents may be viewed and taken away by the authorities.

Special features: Company searches

In the event of a corporate search, there are a number of special considerations to keep in mind due to the associated risk of financial and reputational damage.

Company searches regularly catch the employees present on site completely unprepared. Accordingly, the uncertainty is great when the investigators arrive on site. However, this not infrequently leads to avoidable errors that must be laboriously rectified in the subsequent proceedings - if at all possible.

In the case of a search measure, if the management itself is not on site, a contact person should be designated who coordinates the measure from the company side and can consult with the management if necessary.

At the same time, in the event of a search, the specialist attorney for criminal law commissioned for the company should be contacted immediately; under no circumstances should important decisions be made without legal advice.

It is not only during the measure that there may be significant restrictions on business operations. Already during the search measure, the possibility of continuing the business should be considered.

After a search has taken place...

... a consultation with an experienced specialist lawyer for criminal law is essential in many cases. Whether the office of your legal advisor is located near the place of the search or in another city is not important. What is important, however, is that you seek the advice and defense of an experienced criminal defense attorney with a proven track record. The work of the lawyer advising you will in any case take place exclusively in writing or by telephone. We advise and defend companies and defendants federal.

After a search has taken place, the lawyer's primary task is to check the legality of the search measure itself, but also the manner of the measure on site - and, if advisable, to file appropriate appeals. Furthermore, the lawyer takes care of a quick return of taken objects (e.g. telephones, computers) and agrees with the public prosecutor's office on the scope of the evidence to be viewed as well as the elimination of documents and data that are not subject of the proceedings. Expert advice from a specialist lawyer for criminal law is - once again - advisable, since mistakes made in the course of searches or in the subsequent period can hardly be corrected in later proceedings.

Our Berlin office of specialist lawyers for criminal law will be happy to advise you on the subject of searches or dawn raids as a whole, as well as on pre-trial advice, employee training, search guidelines and legal remedies.