Criminal Law

Teurlings Advocaten

Dutch Criminal Law

As a suspect is seen anybody against who, from facts and circumstances, rises a reasonable doubt of guilt towards a criminal act, the law says.

When you are confronted with the police or the department of justice as a suspect of a crime, a serious criminal act, it is important that you get help from a criminal lawyer at an early stage. With a lawyer, who is sworn to secrecy, you can discuss the case. The lawyer will point out your rights and obligations as a suspect. Especially the question to make use of your right to remain silent is a very important decision in a criminal case. Instead of what a lot of people think a once given statement cannot be withdrawn later, or better, will not have the effect of a withdrawn statement. Even worse, a later withdrawn statement or change of statement will have the effect that the judge can doubt your credibility.
You can be confronted with the police, placed under arrest and treated as a suspect when you’re caught in the act but of course also on other occasions. In these cases the police is obligated to tell you you’re a suspect and that you have the right to remain silent. In the Netherlands we call this the “cautie”.

It’s also possible you’re invited to the police-office to have a conversation because they have some questions. Most of the times it is not clear whether you’re a suspect or not. It is possible the police at that precise moment doesn’t make clear you have the right to remain silent. It can also be unclear whether, or from what moment, you can say it’s an interrogation. If at any time, the police sees you as a suspect, formally they should inform you about the right to remain silent (cautie). From that specific moment the clock starts to tick for the period they can hold you for interrogation.

The law describes that a suspect can be held up for interrogation for a maximum period of six hours. The time between twelve (0.00 am/midnight) and 9.00 am (morning) is not included. If you’re invited to the police-office in the evening it can be wise to (bring a toothbrush or) reschedule the appointment to a morning. This way you make sure you don’t have to spend the night in the police-office unnecessarily. If the police wants to hold you longer for interrogation, the prosecutor has to take you into custody (“in verzekering stellen”). A copy of the warrant or order (“bevel tot inverzekeringstelling”) will be handed out to you (in Dutch unfortunately). When you already have a lawyer, you’re lawyer will receive a copy of this.

The custody is for a period of three days, after which it can be lengthened with another three days. After a maximum period of three days and fifteen hours, counted from the moment you’re arrested or held as a suspect, you have to be brought up to an examining magistrate (Rechter-Commissaris). The judge, the examining magistrate, will decide whether the arrest and pretrial detention is legal and whether you have to be held in “bewaring” (lengthened custody) another fourteen (14) days (maximum). The prosecutor asks for this period and you and your lawyer will be heard on the request.
After those 14 days the court (three judges) decides, again on request of the prosecutor, to keep you another 30, 60 or 90 days in pretrial detention. This period of 30 days can be lengthened by one judge two times. These court sessions (the Rechter-Commissaris and the other sessions) cannot be watched or monitored by other people. No relatives or friends are allowed (unless you’re a minor).
They can only hold you for a maximum of ten days in a police-office after the decision of the “Rechter-Commissaris”. After those ten days you have to go to a detention centre, otherwise they have to let you go.
After the custody of 10 days (Rechter-Commissaris) and three times 30 days (Court) you have to be brought up to a judge in a public hearing. If the investigation is not finished yet, it can be a “pro forma”-procedure. This means the court will not decide about the facts but just about formalities and requests, for instance to set you free for the time being. If this is a “pro forma”-session, the court can lengthen your detention for a maximum of three months (until the next session). The court can do that more than once.
You can be brought up to a Court with three judges called “Meervoudige Kamer”, Full Bench, or in front of one judge, called a “Politierechter”, Police judge. The judge that can decide alone (“Politierechter”) can only give verdicts up to one year detention. The Full Bench handles most other cases and has the possibility to give higher verdicts. The prosecutor decides to bring a case in front of a Full Bench or a Police judge.


As soon as you’re held by the police as a suspect and taken into custody, they have to inform the “piketcentrale”. This is an institute that makes sure every suspect gets an attorney. Of course this lawyer has nothing to do with the police or the department of justice. The lawyer is free of charge and paid by the state. These lawyers have certain qualifications. Of course you have good and bad lawyers. Keep in mind that almost all criminal lawyers help people in police-offices. It’s a fable that these lawyers are worse lawyers than others.
Of course you can also ask for a particular lawyer.
It can happen that after the arrest the police doesn’t want to hold you longer or they have no space, but you’re subpoenaed right away for another date. Get in touch with a lawyer as fast as possible so he can get the files before the date of the trial is there.

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