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In Germany, suspicion is a legal term from the field of criminal procedural law and describes the fact that organs of the law enforcement authorities assume that a criminal offense has been committed on the basis of certain indications (clues, evidence) and conclusions . The suspicion can be directed against a stranger or a specific person. Depending on the evidence , the level of suspicion varies and makes the person concerned either a suspect or an accused.

Degrees of suspicion

German criminal procedural law distinguishes between the following levels of suspicion:

Initial suspicion

The initial suspicion is based on “sufficient factual evidence” ( Section 152 (2 ) StPO ). If there is an initial suspicion must be the public prosecutor after the principle of legality - possibly after performing a so-called. Ermittlungserzwingungsverfahrens - against the accused a formal investigation initiated. Personal data that were collected, for example in the course of a police check, must be saved.

Sufficient suspicion

A reasonable suspicion is a suspected compression, the requirement for a prosecution is in court. Sufficient suspicion is given if a later conviction is likely based on a preliminary assessment of the evidence situation. If there is sufficient suspicion, the public prosecutor's office usually brings a public complaint in the form of an indictment or a penalty order ( Section 170 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure), otherwise it discontinues the proceedings (Section 170 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure). The In-dubio-mitius rule does not apply to the determination. However, the prosecution must take into account the indubio rule when making the decision of the court. This is based on the probability of a conviction. After the indictment has been brought, the court will also examine sufficient suspicion when it decides to open the main proceedings. The basis of the opening decision (Sections 203 , 207 StPO) or non-opening decision ( Section 204 StPO) are the previous investigations by the public prosecutor or the court itself.

Urgent suspicion

An urgent suspicion of a crime is a prerequisite for issuing an arrest warrant with subsequent measures involving deprivation of liberty ( Section 127 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure - provisional arrest, Section 126a of the Code of Criminal Procedure - interim placement). Urgent suspicion of a crime is also required for pre- trial detention ( Section 112 StPO) and the notice of residence determination ( Section 131a StPO). It occurs when, according to the current state of the investigation, there is a high probability that the accused is a perpetrator or participant in a crime. In terms of degree, the urgent suspicion is stronger than the sufficient one, but it can exceptionally exist without the sufficient suspicion being present. For a prognosis that a conviction is likely does not require urgent suspicion; the possibility of condemnation is sufficient.

Judicial conviction

The highest level of suspicion is judicial conviction . Only if the court no longer has any reasonable doubts about the guilt of the accused after the main hearing has been held, it may convict him.

The level of suspicion can change several times in the course of an investigation or criminal proceeding if, for example, the result of a forensic trace evaluation or new witness statements become known. It should be noted that an initial suspicion may be sufficient for the admissibility of measures such as a house search or seizure - with the exception of an arrest warrant.


  • Herold, H./Burghard, W. et al. (Ed.): Kriminalistik-Lexikon - Kriminalistik-Verlag Heidelberg, 1996, ISBN 978-3783209952
  • Meyer-Goßner / Schmitt, Commentary on the Code of Criminal Procedure, CH Beck Verlag, 61st edition 2018