Police check: practical advice of a lawyer for protecting a business
In 2018, 109,500 economic crime cases were opened. 49,500 of them reached the court. Although the total number of criminal cases has decreased compared to 2017, the category of economic crimes shows a steady growth – and the growth is also in terms of the number of convicted persons: by 21% compared to 2017.
Moreover, many of these entrepreneurs, in respect of whom criminal cases were initiated, could have avoided such problems if they had simply paid sufficient attention to their business, including its preparation for a possible police check. We have prepared three practical tips that will help you protect yourself and your business.
Be sure to check credentials
In Russia, such a practice has developed that an ordinary person is instantly lost in the presence of the police. The number of people prosecuted remains stably high, and this creates fear and creates a feeling of defenselessness against police officers. It seems that your fate depends on them and in no case should they mind.
Meanwhile, the police are just part of the system: they also act within the legal framework, and each of their actions should be based on the law. But in practice, it happens that police officers themselves do not know this law and try to “take it abruptly” – or they know it, but they nevertheless act through pressure on the people being checked. That is why it is very important to know your rights and obligations – as well as the rights and obligations of those who conduct the audit.
When you visit the police, first of all, ask them to introduce themselves and present their official IDs. Next, specify the purpose of the visit: this may be the conduct of investigative actions in the framework of a criminal case or the conduct of operational-search measures before initiating this case. Accordingly, employees must show you either a survey order or a search order, depending on what purpose they came from.
Most often, employees come to inspect the premises, and in this case they can study only open surfaces and documents – everything that is located, for example, inspectors are not allowed to inspect in the safe. Accordingly, you are not required to open closed cabinets for them or show the contents of personal bags. Police can inspect all this only during a search.
Prepare for audit reporting and premises organization
To prepare for such checks, you need to systematically: conduct a competent pre-audit, train employees, prepare instructions and make sure that the activities of your company are accompanied by a competent law firm. At a crisis time, you should be sure that an experienced lawyer will come to you quickly.
We’ll talk more about working with the organization’s employees below, but now we’ll focus on the document base of the company and the premises it occupies. Please note that during a police check, employees will examine all the premises of the company that are available to them, all available documents, and will also check contractors. In general, working with unreliable contractors is one of the most common problems. If there are unscrupulous companies in the list of your partners, suppliers or buyers, they will sooner or later attract the attention of inspection bodies. And those, in turn, will check you. Therefore, you need to carefully collect information about each company’s counterparty.
In addition, it makes sense to transfer databases to remote servers via a secure channel so that there is nothing important in the premises of the enterprise. It is also important to instruct the perimeter guard: the sooner you are informed that the police came to the checkpoint, the better.
Prepare company employees for verification
The main thing that employees must learn: do not need to help policemen in their work. “Open the desk drawers”, “enter passwords on all computers” and so on – all this is not necessary. The correct answer: “Sorry, I’m not a lawyer: if you have the right to do this, please do it yourself. I can not do it for you. Thank you for understanding”. Because – even if the policeman does not have the right to inspect the closed table – as soon as the employee of the company opens this table, all the contents can be inspected and, possibly, removed.
At the same time, in no case should the police be obstructed. Even if you – or one of your employees – think that the inspectors exceed their authority, you can’t forcefully counteract it. You can ask a question and clarify whether the policeman acts adequately – and that’s all. If he really exceeded his authority, all actions must be carefully remembered, indicated in the protocol and later appealed to the prosecutor.
And do not respond to threats. Fear of the police is the main “weapon” of the inspectors: they menacingly command people to “present the contents of personal bags” – and they obediently obey. Although the police officer usually does not have any right to search for personal belongings.
Always remember that the law protects you, the policeman is obliged to act on this law.