German legal system and laws has very old roots and traditions. It is based on the continental law, which is quite different from the Anglo-Saxon legal system, but which, of course, does not make it worse. The common opinion of lawyers is that the German legal system is just enough.
The system of courts
A developed system of courts is built in Germany. It means that they can specialize on separate issues, although there are ordinary courts as well. Here, cases regarding crimes, divorces, civil and family affairs are considered. Also, they are responsible for official registration of local companies and businesses. These courts outnumber all other courts in Germany. There is a subordination of German courts: the Local, the Regional, the Higher Regional and the Federal Court of Justice. The Local Court employs only one judge, sometimes two, the Regional Court has three judges, The Higher Regional Court has three-five judges and the Federal Court of Justice has five judges. These courts perform their own functions. For example, the Local Court and The Regional Court are responsible for civic cases; criminal cases are considered in the first 3 courts, while the last court accepts appeals.
Specialized courts in Germany include financial courts (tax cases), social law courts (issues regarding unemployment, trade unions, etc.), labour law courts (employment and job cases), administrative courts (state bodies’ activities).
As it was mentioned above, each court has its own number of judges. However, their number may increase for a more complicated case. Judges have life-long employment and have a status of state employees. All judges must have a state license. There is no jury trial in Germany.
Suspects have a full range of rights. For example, they can call for their lawyer, remain silent and are considered innocent until the court has proven the opposite. The court has a right to make examinations regarding the suspect’s case. Not attending one’s own court trial has serious consequences, if fatal circumstances are not proved as an obstacle.
Cases on drugs are usually taken as very serious ones as well as weapons. The procedure of gaining official permit for holding a gun is quite complicated.
When speaking about contracts, it’s necessary to say that in Germany people try to make them very standardized, with many issues already included. However, all details must be previously checked, so that later there would be no reasons for trial.
One of the most common cases in courts are those connected with hiring a flat or a house. You should remember that in order to rent the flat you must legally document it. The reasons for trials are usually conflicts between landlords and tenants.
While in Germany, you should be well aware of the great importance Germans pay to their national symbols. You will get into serious trouble if you offence them in any way. You should also be careful when talking to police, because insulting them can lead to quite unpleasant implications.
If you are a foreigner in Germany you should be prepared that in case you committed a crime your passport may be temporarily withdrawn by officials, so that you would not flee. In case of a serious crime, you may be detained.
Prosecutor office conducts an investigation to gather all evidence and facts about suspect, after that the case goes to court.
Each suspect has a right to use the services of counsel. In cases, where the sentence is likely to be long or if the case is complicated, the state provides legal counsel even if the suspect does not want him.
The trials in Germany are expensive. You will have to pay out both the attorney’s fees and court expenses. Lawyers in Germany do not often want to get fully involved into the case. This is partly caused be the fact that it is judge, but not counselors and prosecutors, who question suspect and witnesses.
Victims of crimes have a right to participate in investigation, if they want it, so that more direct evidence can be collected.
Detentions include sentencing and fines. The duration of sentences varies: from a month to a life-long sentence. Surely, the duration depends upon the crime which was committed.
Fines are most frequently applied for cases with breaking traffic regulations, unjust competition, and routine conflicts. Sometimes a property, which had caused the trouble (for instance, a car or a bicycle) can be withdrawn.
Usually confinement starts right after the court’s decision.
Each court decision can be appealed in courts of higher hierarchy. Such appeal must be applied no later than ten days after the court’s decision. When applying an appeal it’s reasonable to compare costs: sometimes it’s cheaper to pay a fine than to go through the trial from the beginning again.
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