What you need to know if you are being searched?

Anyone can be searched at any time. You do not need to be a suspect to do so. You will not even know that criminal proceedings have been opened against you or other persons or that investigative actions are planned. Unfortunately, most people do not know the main points of such a procedural action as a search, which leads to a violation of their legitimate rights and interests.

What is a search?

A search is primarily a procedural investigative action that has a certain algorithm for conducting and recording its results.

A search is conducted to identify and record information about the circumstances of a criminal offence, to find the instrument of a criminal offence or property obtained as a result of the offence, and to establish the location of wanted persons.

More details about the search and the grounds for it can be found in this article.

If you are searched, the first thing you should do is call your lawyer.

Law enforcement officers can ensure the presence of a free legal aid lawyer, but the quality of their services may raise certain doubts, for obvious reasons. Therefore, we would advise you to have a pre-concluded agreement on the provision of professional legal assistance with a lawyer you trust.

So, while you are waiting for the lawyer to arrive, you need to follow the following algorithm of actions:

1. Demand that you be provided with a copy of the investigating judge’s decision to search your home or other movable or immovable property. After receiving the ruling, you should read it carefully and pay attention to the following:

  • The validity of the decision cannot exceed one month from the date of its issuance. If the validity period has expired, then you can safely refuse access to the premises and call the police to record the investigator’s illegal actions.
  • Full name and rank of the investigator who filed the search warrant. This also applies to the prosecutor if he or she is present during the search.
  • A reference to the provision of law on the basis of which the investigating judge’s ruling was made.
  • The number of the criminal proceedings within which the search is carried out and a brief summary of the case.
  • The address of the dwelling or other property where the search is conducted. In practice, it often happens that law enforcement officers provide the wrong address (street name, house or apartment number).
  • Data of the person who owns the dwelling or other property and the person in actual possession of it.
  • Information about the things, documents or persons to be searched.

2. Check the investigator’s credentials. Demand that the person introduce himself or herself and provide his or her documents. In addition, write down the details of the operatives.

3. A search of a dwelling or premises is carried out with the obligatory participation of two witnesses. It is necessary to write down the personal data of the witnesses and find out how these persons were invited to the search and, if you are not sure that the witnesses are not interested in the results of the criminal proceedings, to request their replacement.

4. The course of this investigative action must be recorded by means of audio and video recording. Moreover, the failure to use technical means of recording or if the video is constantly interrupted entails the actual inadmissibility of such evidence. You can also conduct your own video recording simultaneously with law enforcement officers, which you can later attach to the search report.

5. Before the search begins, the persons involved in the search must be informed of their rights and obligations, as well as of the liability established by law.

6. Searches are prohibited from 22:00 to 6:00. An exception may be made in urgent cases when a delay in their conduct may lead to the loss of traces of the crime or the escape of the suspect.

7. It is also important that the court decision gives the right to enter the premises only once. That is, if the investigator or prosecutor has left the premises where the search is being conducted, they have no right to return and continue it on the basis of the same decision.

If the investigator decides to conduct an interrogation during the search, you may refuse to testify on the basis of Article 63 of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Upon completion of the search, the investigator is obliged to draw up a search report, where he or she records the entire course of the investigation, the participants and the description of the property that was found and seized.

Before signing the search report, you should read it carefully and indicate your comments and additions.

This is a minimal list of recommendations if you decide to defend your rights on your own, but we would advise you to enlist the support of a lawyer who can provide practical advice and help you avoid possible adverse consequences based on the results of the search.

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