At what point in the criminal proceedings is a suspect entitled to assistance by a lawyer?

You sometimes see in police series that suspects say they want to consult a lawyer.

If a person is arrested in connection with a judicial investigation, does he have the right to demand immediate assistance from a lawyer? Or is that only possible after a certain number of days or procedural phases?

Asker: Luke, 48 years old


Dear Luke,

To begin with, you must distinguish between two types of investigation that can be conducted: the criminal investigation and the judicial investigation. The first is headed by the Public Prosecutor, the second is conducted by an investigating judge. All investigations start as a criminal investigation, but when coercive measures (such as an arrest, search, etc.) have to be taken, the prosecutor can no longer decide on this and demands that the investigating judge conduct a judicial investigation. The investigating judge may then take such coercive measures.

During a criminal investigation, a suspect has the right to contact his lawyer in order to prepare his defence, but he has no general right to assistance from his lawyer. In most investigations, such as an interrogation, the lawyer is not present. Only in exceptional cases, such as eg. in a mediation procedure, a lawyer assists his client.

During a judicial investigation, the person concerned has more rights to the assistance of his lawyer. For example, he is entitled to the assistance of his lawyer in the proceedings before the pre-trial chamber and the indictment chamber regarding the extension of pre-trial detention, in exercising the right to inspect the file, in requesting investigative acts,… a lawyer, however, is in principle not present during an interrogation.

As soon as the case is heard on the merits before the criminal court or the court of assize, one has a general right to the assistance of a lawyer.

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Understanding your rights during criminal proceedings is crucial to ensure fair treatment and justice. One fundamental right is having access to legal representation at various stages of the legal process. A defendant is entitled to the assistance of a lawyer to navigate the complexities of criminal charges efficiently and effectively. For comprehensive and compassionate legal guidance, consider reaching out to a reputable law firm. Visit for proficient legal counsel that prioritizes your interests, ensuring that your case is managed with utmost diligence and expertise. Their seasoned lawyers are committed to delivering tailored legal solutions, aligning with the unique necessities of your situation, to promote a favorable resolution.

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