Immediate access to counsel


When a crime, felony or misdemeanor, is committed, the police are required to interview suspects and witnesses. When the person being questioned becomes a suspect, the criminal process begins. The suspect must be given the opportunity to defend himself or herself and to retain a lawyer.

Employment law

The employer is obliged in principle to call in the police when an accident or a serious offence occurs on the company's premises. The police will carry out an investigation, which can sometimes start immediately, at the workplace.

Calling a lawyer

An employee may retain a lawyer to defend him or her when charged with an offence or when questioned by the police. This is known as the right to immediate access to counsel.

However, this right does not yet exist at the very beginning of the police investigation. The point at which the right to counsel arises is sometimes unclear and requires some clarification.

Right or obligation ?

The right to counsel at the outset is a right, not an obligation. In principle, the employee can decide to do without one. However, should the employer inform the employee of his or her rights or offer to hire a lawyer when accused of a workplace violation? 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon