Crime and Court news

To be an “official suspect” in Italy

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Image to be a suspect in a criminal investigation. Your grandma died under unclear circumstances and you are a heir, so you are technically a suspect together with other relatives.

The investigators can’t keep their suspicion for themselves. By law they must write your name in an official register and send you an official communication.

In theory, all of this is secret. In practice, everyone will know this, the media included.

The official status of suspect was introduced by the 1988 Criminal Procedure Code. On paper, it was supposed to protect the suspect allowing him to appoint a lawyer and defend himself during the investigation. In reality, it appears just another product of the Italian over-bureaucratic thinking, according to which a criminal investigation is not only a fact-finding operation, but becomes a full-fledged phase of the judicial proceedings, supervised by a prosecutor and a judge. In practice, this has exposed countless official suspects to unwanted media attention.

When you become an official suspect, this will be usually reported by the press; but when you are cleared, this often goes unnoticed. Moreover, the public tends to consider the official suspect status tantamount to an indictment or even a conviction.

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