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Brief research guide to key resources on the law of Germany. German legal research.

Codes and Statutes

There are two sources of law in Germany: statute and customary.

  • Statute (Gesetz) - includes the constitution, the codes and any additional statutes.   This also includes regulations of the Federation, the Ministries of the Federation and the states.  Local by-laws and rules are not considered Gesetz.
  • Customary Law (Gewohnheitsrecht) - includes all general public practice recognized as  binding.  Now a very limited source of new law.

As a member of the European Union, Germany must also incorporate EU law into its legal system.  This body of law will not be discussed in this guide.

There is no current official codification of German laws. Most codes are published commercially and contain comments and annotations.  These are called "Kommentare" or commentaries and are very highly respected in Germany. A comprehensive compilation of German laws is:

The German legal system is based on the civil law tradition which has at its core five codes: civil,  civil procedure, commercial, criminal, and criminal procedure. 

Civil Code

The most important source of law is the German Civil Code (Burgerliches Gesetzbuch, cited BGB) of 1896, Reichsgesetzblatt, p. 195.  The civil code is divided into 5 books: the general part, obligations, property, family, and inheritance.  A recent German commentary on the civil code is:

English translations of codes and statutes are also available:

Code of Civil Procedure

The German Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung (ZPO) 1950) is in the Bundesgesetzblatt  Teil I, p. 533. 

Commercial Code

The German Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch (HGB) of 1897) can be found in Reichsgesetzblatt, p. 219.

English translations of the commercial code and other commercial statutes are available:

Criminal Code

The Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch (StGB) of 1872), last revised in 1987, is available in the Bundesgesetzblatt Teil I, p. 945 and 1,160.

English translations of the Criminal Code are available:

Code of Criminal Procedure

The German Code of Criminal Procedure (Strafprozessordnung (StPO) of 1877), revised in 1987 is found in the Bundesgesetzblatt Teil I p.1,074 and 1,319. The following commentaries also contain the text.

English translations of the Criminal Procedure Code are also available:

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