Coercive measures

Various coercive measures can be used for securing the investigation of crime, the trial and the enforcement of the sentence.

For many coercive measures, the decision on their use is made by the police. These measures include apprehension, arrest, recording of personal identifying information, seizure, and search.

Coercive measures that require a decision by the district court are detention, travel ban in lieu of detention, restraint on alienation, seizure for escrow, as well as licences for telecommunications monitoring, telecommunications interception and technical observation.


A person suspected with probable cause of an offence may be detained, if

  • the minimum penalty provided for the offence is at least two years’ imprisonment or
  • the maximum penalty provided for the offence is at least one year’s imprisonment and there is reason to believe that the suspect will abscond, complicate the investigation or continue his criminal activity.

Detention for probable cause is possible also in certain other special cases, e.g. if the suspect lies about his name or address or refuses to supply the same.

Suspicion with probable cause means that it is more probable that the suspect is guilty than that he is not guilty. Detention is possible also when the prerequisites referred to above are met but there is not yet a probable cause, as long as there is reason to suspect ("lower suspicion threshold") that the person has committed the offence. In this event, there is an additional prerequisite, namely that it can be anticipated that evidence in support of the suspicion will be obtained.

No one shall be detained or kept in detention if this would be unreasonable in view of the nature of the matter, the age of the person or his other personal circumstances.

Normally, the decision on detention is made by the district court of the place of commission of the offence. The police must file an application for the detention of a person under arrest no later than on the third day after the apprehension of the suspect. The application shall be dealt with without delay, and no later than on the fourth day after apprehension. Because of the urgency of detention matters, the district courts operate a system of on-call judges; the application may also be dealt with by a district court other than that of the place of commission of the offence.

A suspect who is under arrest is brought to the detention hearing, where he is ordered either to be detained or to be released. If the suspect is not under arrest, he is normally reserved an opportunity to appear to contest the application. A suspect absent from the hearing may be ordered to be detained regardless of the absence. In this event, a police bulletin on the person is sent out.

If a suspect has been detained because there is reason to suspect him and evidence (e.g. laboratory results) in support of the suspicion is anticipated, the matter shall be brought to a re-hearing within one week of the earlier detention order. If, at this time, there is no evidence in support of the suspicion, the detainee shall be released at once.

When a suspect is ordered to be detained, the court sets a deadline for the bringing of the charge. Where necessary, this deadline may be extended on the request of the prosecutor.

On the request of the arrested, the district court shall re-hear the detention matter within four days of the request, however not earlier than two weeks after the foregoing hearing. The matter shall be re-heard also when there, for instance in connection to a new investigation, appears grounds for it.

Travel ban

A person suspected with probable cause of an offence may be subjected to a travel ban, if the maximum penalty provided for the offence is no less than one year’s imprisonment and it is probable that the suspect will abscond or continue his criminal activity. Normally, the travel ban is imposed by a police officer, but also the district court may in a detention hearing order that the person is subject to a travel ban instead of detention.

The travel ban delimits the area from which the suspect is not to leave. A person subjected to a travel ban may also be obliged to be accessible in his home or workplace at given times, or to stay at an institution or hospital. If a person subjected to a travel ban violates the ban, he may be arrested or detained.

Restraint on alienation and seizure for escrow

The district court may impose a restraint on alienation on property that belongs

  • to a person suspected with probable cause of an offence or
  • another person who may be ordered to pay compensation or forfeit money to the state because of an offence.

It is a prerequisite for a restraint on alienation that the person is suspected of trying to avoid the payment of a fine, compensation or forfeit by concealing or destroying property, by absconding or by some other means.

A restraint on alienation may not cover more property than that corresponding to the fine, compensation or forfeit. A restraint on alienation means that the owner is not entitled to sell or otherwise convey the property subject to the restraint. The enforcement authorities see to the enforcement of the restraint.

If a restraint on alienation is considered an inadequate method for securing payment, the movable property of the person may be seized for escrow, in which event it is taken into the possession of the enforcement authorities.

Telecommunications interception and telecommunications monitoring and technical observation

Telecommunications interception means the tapping and recording of a telecommunication connection (e.g. telephone, mobile telephone), e-mail address or device in the possession or use of a suspected offender so as to find out about the content of messages out of and into the connection. Telecommunications monitoring, for its part, means the obtaining of secret identifying data (e.g. telephone numbers) from messages that have been sent into and out of a connection, address or device in the possession or use of the suspect. Information can also be obtained about the position of the mobile device. In telecommunications monitoring, the connection may also be temporarily disconnected. On the consent of an injured party, the telecommunications monitoring may be directed also at a connection in the possession or use of the injured party. Technical observation means listening to, watching or following a suspected offender by means of technical devices.

The district court may grant the police a license to listen to an record messages, if there is reason to suspect the person of certain serious offences, as listed in chapter 5a of the Coercive Measures Act (450/1987). A license for telecommunications monitoring may be granted e.g. if there is reason to suspect the person of

  • an offence where the maximum penalty is no less than four years’ imprisonment,
  • an offence against an IT system by way of a data terminal, or
  • a narcotics offence, pandering, an unlawful threat and preparing a terrorist offence.

Moreover, it is a prerequisite of telecommunications interception, telecommunications monitoring and technical observation that the information gained may be expected to be very important for the investigation of the offence.

Published 8.9.2017