Criminal law includes the entirety of all legal provisions that regulate criminal offenses or affect criminal proceedings. Criminal law is one of the three big areas of law in Germany, alongside civil law and public law, with criminal law systematically forming a part of public law.

In a constitutional state, criminal law serves to protect individual legal interests (e.g. health, assets, etc.) and the legal interests of the general public. The repressive sanctioning of certain, illegal behavior in criminal law is intended to encourage citizens to adhere to the legal system, which establishes the common rules of the community.

The main penalties recognized by criminal law are imprisonment and a fine. However, such harsh, repressive punishment by the state should always be the ultima ratio (the last resort) to bring about legal peace. Not every anti-social behavior is therefore a criminal offense, but only serious legal violations for which civil sanctions (e.g. compensation) or administrative law (e.g. fines) are not sufficient.

Als solche Straftaten sind im Strafrecht unter anderem zu nennen:

  • Murder
  • homicide
  • Mayhem
  • coercion
  • theft
  • Hehlerei
  • Raub
  • blackmail
  • Fraud
  • Damage to property


Criminal law is regulated primarily in the Criminal Code (StGB), which, in addition to the general provisions for criminal law, standardizes a large number of criminal offenses. However, crimes are not only found in the Criminal Code, but also in numerous other laws such as the Narcotics Act, Medicines Act, etc., so-called secondary criminal law. Regulations on criminal procedure (formal criminal law) can be found in particular in the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO) and the Court Procedure Act (GVG).

On the following pages we will try to provide you with as much information as possible about the basics of criminal law.

We also recommend the following pages on the subject of criminal law: