The modern German legal system is a system of law which is founded on the principles laid out by the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, though many of the most important laws as for example most regulations of the civil code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, or BGB) were developed prior to the 1949 constitution. It is composed of public law (öffentliches Recht), which regulates the relations between a citizen/person and the state or two bodies of the state (including criminal law) and the private law (Privatrecht) which regulates the relations between two people or companies and the criminal law. It has been subject to a wide array of influences from Roman law, such as the Corpus Juris Civilis, to Napoleonic law, such as the Napoleonic Code.
2 Public law
2.1 Constitutional law
2.2 Administrative law
2.3 Administrative civil law
2.4 Criminal law
3 Private law
3.1 Civil law
4 Procedural law
5 See also
5.1 Articles about specific German laws
6 External links
German law has been subject to many influences over the centuries. Until Medieval times the Early Germanic Law, derived from the Salic Law of the Salian Franks and other tribes, was common. With the arrival of the Renaissance, Roman law again began to play a strong role, and later on legal scholars known as the Pandectists revived the formalities of Roman law as set by Justinian in the Corpus iuris civilis. It became common law (Gemeines Recht) in large parts of the German-speaking world and prevailed far into the 19th century. As the
Prussia made an effort to bring in an all-new set of laws with the Allgemeines Landrecht für die preußischen Staaten (General National Law for the Prussian States) a system of codification, containing laws in relation to the whole spectrum of legal divisions, in the 18th century which, had a great influence on later works.
After the French July Revolution of 1830, revolutionary ideas of the French Revolution and Napoleon's laws as the Code Civil the Code Pénale and the Code d´ Instruction Criminelle strongly influenced the German legal tradition, especially in the Grand Duchy of Baden, which sometimes only translated codifications of France for its own use.
With the forming of the Deutsches Reich in 1871, a great wave of legal standardization set on, beginning with criminal law and procedural law and culminating in the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (Book of Civil Law) after over twenty years of creative process. Important parts of German legislation still contain regulations of these laws. However, the various states always maintained their own laws to an extent and, in modern federal
In 1919 in
This ultimate democratic legal constitution allowed Hitler to change the whole form of government according to his wishes. The main crimes of National socialism were in form absolutely legal, because the Nazi-dominated Reichstag made the necessary decisions. The Nazis understood law as the execution of the Will of the Führer. Jewish and critical jurists were eliminated, a blood letting, that later could not be made up for, because some of the best jurists,and especially lawyers, were Jews. Many others collaborated with the government. This happened because of adherence to Hitler or in the hope of career advancement, because nobody was forced to participate in political relevant areas.
After the war, the two newly emerged German states generated two different legal systems. The socialist–communist
The democratic state of
Public law (Öffentliches Recht) rules the relations between a citizen or private person and an official entity or between two official entities. E.g., a law which determines taxes is always part of the public law, just like the relations between a public authority of the Federation (Bund) and a public authority of a state (Land).
Public law was formerly based on the so-called "Über-Unterordnungs-Verhältnis" ("superiority inferiority relationship"). That means that a public authority may define what is to be done, without the consent of the citizen. (E.g., if the authority orders a citizen to pay taxes, the citizen has to pay, even without an agreement.) In return, the authority has to abide by the law and may only order, if empowered by a law.
The newer and now most acknowledged theory to determine, whether a regulation is public or civil law, is the "modifizierte Subjektstheorie" (modified theory of subjects). A codified regulation is public law, if at least one of the subjects is part of the state ("Der Staat" as is meant legislative, executive and judiciary) or is legally empowered to act on behalf of any part of the state. This Theory was necessary, because the Theory of "Über-Unterordnungs-Verhältnis" failed in certain situations, e.g.: A parent is legally superior to a minor. The minor cannot sign any contract without a parents consent. Following the old theory, this would be a case of "Überordnung", which would qualify these regulations as public law. The newer theory qualifies these regulations as private law, because the parents are superior, but they are not part of the state nor acting on behalf of any.
A subject in the sense of the Modifizierte Subjektstheorie is the addressee, that might be entitled or obligated to do or to forbear something; e.g.: Tax Laws entitle the state to collect taxes, criminal law entitles the state to imprison criminals and also obligates the state to resolve crimes.
The constitution (Verfassung) is called the Grundgesetz (Basic Law) because the drafters saw this legal "corpus" as a provisional document, to be replaced by the constitution of a future united
The constitutional law (Verfassungsrecht) deals, of course, mostly with
Decisions may be made according to the definition of these regulations, but the essential content has to be unaffected. The highest authority in constitutional law, and to some extent in German law as a whole, is the
This particular matter takes up a lot of the court's work and often reshapes the legal process itself if the law finds that a certain law does in fact interfere with civil rights. Decisions of other courts are varied only with regard to violations of the constitution. Other mistakes are not relevant. Again, European law has a certain influence here as the Grundgesetz is no longer the sole source of law, instead it is joined by the treaties and laws of the European Union. Apart from the constitution of the
The administrative law is the law of the Executive. It covers most kinds of legal relations between the state and the citizens, but also between different bodies and/or levels of government with the exception of constitutional law, but not those legal relations, when the state closes contracts like any other private citizen. The highest administrative court for most matters is the Bundesverwaltungsgericht (
Administrative civil law
The executive may act on grounds of the "Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch" (BGB, "civil code"). However, if a governmental office acts on ground of the BGB (e. g.: is buying a pencil), this office is bound to the Grundgesetz (and other laws) to prevent unequal treatment of citizens and businesses.
Criminal law in the narrow sense of the word is a matter of Federal law in
Private law (Privatrecht) rules the relations between two private legal entities (for example a buyer and a seller, an employer and an employee, a tenant and a landlord) or two entities that act on the same level as private persons (an authority buys its pencils from a private company). In contrast, whenever a state agency exercises official power, private law is not to be applied.
Main articles: German contract law, German tort law, Unjustified enrichment in German law, and German property law
Civil law (Bürgerliches Recht) determines the relationships among persons and/or legal entities, i.e. those who do not fall into a special category (like merchants or employees). The most important reference of this area is the Civil Law Book (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB), which consists of 5 major parts: the common/general part, the law of obligations, property law, family law and law of succession.
The most important principle of the Burgars is Privatautonomie, which states that all citizens have the right to rule their own affairs without interference from the state, especially in the disposal of their property according to their will and the creation of contracts with partners and with the contents they like. Because of this, most of the rules in the BGB are only supplied in case that the partners of a contract did not make an agreement on that special point themselves. However, in the last few years there has been a tendency towards more regulation, especially between a professional and a consumer, declaring contracts invalid which place an undue burden on one party. Other groups of people that enjoy protection are minors and people in a weak economic position.
The most important creation of the BGB is the Principle of Abstraction (Abstraktionsprinzip). According to this principle, contracts only create an obligation, but there are no actual changes to the legal correlation concerning the object of the contract. To create these changes by fulfillment of the obligation, a different contract, regulated in property law is necessary. By this way, the sale of a burger in exchange for one Euro means three different contracts. One contract concluded by coincident declarations of intent, where the parties agree to buy one burger to the payment one Euro and to create the obligation of the seller, to transfer the burger and to provide property on the burger, to create the obligation of the buyer to transfer the Euro and to provide property on the Euro and finally to create a dependence between these two obligations. The second contract consists of the transfer of the burger and the coincident declarations of intent to provide property by doing so. The third contract consists of the transfer of the Euro and the coincident declarations of intent to provide property by doing so. This doesn't mean that contracts in
The procedural system of
Legal systems of the world
Japanese law, which is based heavily on German civil law
Articles about specific German laws
Strafgesetzbuch § 86a which bans "use of symbols of unconstitutional organisations" - such as Nazi salutes.
Textile Labelling Act (
Alcohol laws in
Betäubungsmittelgesetz (BtMG), the Narcotics Act
§ Introduction into the German law system - History of German law, Organisation of the state, Sections of law, Sources of German law, Jurisdiction, Professions of law
§ Centre for German Legal Information - the gateway to German law in English
§ (German) Almost the entire federal law code online. Semiofficial, provided by the Federal Ministry of Justice in cooperation with a federally-controlled commercial legal information service/print publisher.
§ (English) Also provided are English translations of AO Fiscal Code, BGB Civil Code, EGBGB Introductory Act to the Civil Code (IACC), GVG Courts Constitution Act, JGG Youth Courts Law, StGB Criminal Code and StPO Code of Criminal Procedure (as of November 2009).