During the investigative proceedings, evidence will be taken in order to investigate the crime. This is done by the examination of witnesses and the accused person, by collecting and securing documents (e.g. papers, medical certificates), trace evidence (e.g. fingerprints, DNA traces, blood traces) or objects (e.g. photos, instrumentalities) and bringing in experts for assessment, if required.
As the aggrieved person, you are a witness like any other person who has witnessed, observed or heard about the crime. All witnesses relevant to the investigation of the crime will be summoned for examination by the police or the public prosecution office.
It is important to keep these appointments because the witness statement is frequently the only, and in most cases the most important evidence of the course of the crime, e.g. in case of sexual offences and of domestic violence.
If available, you should bring along additional documents, like medical certificates, to the hearing of evidence.
If you are unavailable at the appointed date, request a postponement of the date. You may bring along a person you trust (legal counsel, accessory private prosecutor, Stiftung Opferhilfe Niedersachsen (Foundation for Victim Assistance in Lower Saxony)) to the hearing of evidence. During the hearing, you may also name other witnesses.
Prior to the conclusion of the police investigations, the accused person will be given the opportunity to make comments on the investigations. After that, at the latest, the files will be forwarded to the public prosecution office, which will manage the investigative proceedings and may ask the police conduct further interrogations or other investigations. Sometimes, aggrieved persons and witnesses will be summoned for examination directly by the public prosecution office. Please keep these appointments as well or ask for a postponement.
If you fail to appear without authorization or excuse, the public prosecution office may impose an administrative fine.
You may refuse to testify if you are or were related lineally or related by marriage to the accused, if you are or were married or legally partnered to the accused or if you are engaged to the accused. In case of an engagement, the right to refuse testimony ends with the dissolution of the engagement.
The right to refuse testimony frees you from the obligation to testify. However, you are obliged to appear in time if you are summoned by the court or the public prosecution office. Thus you have to comply with the summons to appear. Then, the public prosecution office and the court will examine whether the reason for the refusal to give evidence or the right to refuse testimony really exists. In this context, they may demand that you substantiate the reason for the right to refuse to give evidence, i.e. the existence of a marriage, a partnership, an engagement or a family relationship, by an affirmation in lieu of an oath.
If you have the right to refuse testimony and make use of it, the proceedings may be conducted independently of this. The public prosecution office and the police will then examine if the crime can be proven by other evidence, such as statements of police officers, photos or sound recordings of an emergency call.
If there is no right to refuse to give evidence, every witness is obliged to give evidence. This applies also to you as the aggrieved person. If you refuse to give evidence without reason, a coercive fine may be imposed on you.
If you have the right to refuse testimony and make use of it, the proceedings may be conducted independently of this.
Every witness is obliged to tell the truth. This applies also to witnesses who have the right to refuse testimony, but do not make use of it. This refers to everything connected with the crime. If a witness does not tell the truth, he/she can make himself/herself liable to prosecution. In this case, the public prosecution office and the court will, ex officio, initiate investigative and criminal proceedings. In addition, the witnesses' obligation to tell the truth includes the obligation to tell anything you know about the actual facts of the case.
This also refers to personal data. The hearing shall begin with the witness being asked to state his first name, last name, name at birth, age, occupation and place of residence. If you as the aggrieved person feel threatened by the accused person or any person related to the accused person, you should always inform the police, the public prosecution office and the court before your examination in order to enable them to examine, prepare and take protective measures.
During the hearing, each witness should first tell the facts he/she knows without being interrupted by interposed questions. Afterwards, questions may be asked. Questions concerning personal affairs of the witness are not permitted unless their answering is indispensable. This applies also to questions that are embarrassing, refer to the intimate sphere or may compromise the witness or persons who are related lineally or by marriage to the witness if they are answered truthfully. As the aggrieved person, you may request an examination as to whether you have to answer a question of this type or not. As the aggrieved person, you have the right to explain the effect the crime had on you.
All witnesses can bring along a lawyer to the examination. In special cases, legal assistance may be appointed by the court.
Irrespective of this, you as the aggrieved person, may - on your request - be accompanied by a confidant, e.g. a friend or a professional advisor during your examination as witness (witness support, psychosocial process accompaniment). A request of this type may be rejected in exceptional cases only. Such rejection must be justified.
If the crime involves, in particular
you, as the aggrieved person have the right to join the prosecution initiated by the public prosecutor by initiating an accessory private prosecution. For this purpose, you must submit an express declaration to the court, but the declaration for joinder may also be forwarded by a lawyer (accessory private prosecution representative). As a private accessory prosecutor, you have extensive rights during the criminal proceedings, e.g., the right to inspect files, the right to be present at the main hearing, the right to ask questions to the defendant and the witnesses and the right to apply for evidence to be taken. In case of an acquittal, you can also file an appeal on fact and law or an appeal on law against the judgment, which - however - may involve costs to you. These rights may be exercised by a lawyer on your behalf. For this legal representation of the accessory private prosecution, you - as the aggrieved person - may apply for legal aid. In case of particularly serious crimes, the costs of providing legal assistance may be borne by the Treasury.
In case of serious crimes, the public prosecution office may - even before the preferment of the public charges - request the court to issue a warrant of arrest against the accused if there is a risk that you as the aggrieved person or other witnesses of the crime are put under pressure (risk of tampering with evidence) or if the accused has fled or if there is a risk that the accused will try to evade the criminal proceedings (flight or risk of flight). A warrant of arrest may also be applied for if there is a substantiated risk that the accused will commit further serious crimes. The warrant of arrest will always be issued by the court.
The accused may lodge a complaint against the warrant of arrest or apply for a review of detention. If the accused is released from prison because the warrant of arrest is revoked or the execution of the warrant of arrest is suspended under certain conditions, e.g. the furnishing of a bail or prohibition of contact, the accused will be a free person again. You as the aggrieved person can be informed of the release if you have submitted an appropriate application to the public prosecution office. You can then prepare for a possible encounter with the accused. If a prohibition of contact was imposed on the accused, you should always inform the police if he/she nevertheless contacts you or tries to do so.
If a further investigation of the crime is no longer possible or necessary and, thus, further investigations are no longer required, the public prosecution office will examine whether a court will probably sentence the accused - this is the so-called sufficient evidence for a charge. If this is not the case, e.g. because the evidence found is not sufficient to convict the accused, the public prosecution office will terminate the criminal proceedings. In this case, the persons who made the report and you as the aggrieved person will be informed. You as the aggrieved person may lodge a complaint against the termination. You may do this yourself or with the assistance of a lawyer.
If a conviction of the accused is probable, but the case is less serious and the guilt is considered to be of a minor nature, the public prosecutor can terminate the proceedings on account of slight fault without conditions. He/she can do this without the consent of the accused and also without the consent of you, the aggrieved person. You may obtain information from files with our without the assistance of a lawyer.
If the conviction of the accused is probable, the public prosecutor may impose conditions and instructions upon the accused if he/she does not regard a conviction by the court as necessary, e.g. if the guilt is considered to be of less serious nature or if you as the aggrieved person are not interested in a punishment and have therefore not initiated criminal proceedings. In some cases, this is only possible with the consent of the court. The conditions may also refer to you as the aggrieved person. You may make suggestions for certain conditions. The conditions to be imposed include, but are not limited to, the following:
The conditions or instructions imposed must be complied with within a period of 6 months or - in case of the social skills training course- within a period of one year. Then the proceedings will be terminated with final effect. If the conditions are not complied with, the public prosecution office will initiate the public prosecution (public charges) or apply for a written order (penal order) at the court.