Criminal cases; hearing and decision before the district court

The district courts are the first instance courts responsible for hearing and deciding certain criminal cases.


The law determines which court and which panel of judges is appointed to hear and decide a criminal case. The decisive factor here is the nature of the accusation and the expected punishment.

In principle, the local court has first-instance jurisdiction to hear and decide criminal cases unless

  • special provisions establish the jurisdiction of the Regional Court (e.g. for capital offenses) or the Higher Regional Court (e.g. for serious state protection offenses),
  • in an individual case, a sentence of more than four years' imprisonment or placement in a psychiatric hospital or preventive detention is to be expected,
  • the public prosecutor brings charges before the regional court because of the special importance of the case or the need for protection of persons injured in the criminal act who could be considered as witnesses.

The district court may not impose a sentence higher than four years of imprisonment.

If the offense charged to the district court is a misdemeanor (unlawful act punishable at a minimum by imprisonment of less than one year or a fine) and a sentence higher than imprisonment of two years is not to be expected in the specific case, the judge at the district court shall decide as a single judge (criminal judge). Otherwise (if the offense charged is a crime punishable by at least one year's imprisonment or if a prison sentence of between two and four years is to be expected in the specific case), the court of lay assessors, which usually consists of one professional judge and two lay assessors, makes the decision.

The court makes the decision on the basis of its free conviction drawn from the hearing. If the court cannot be convinced of the defendant's guilt, it may not convict him ("in case of doubt for the defendant"). The main hearing concludes with the pronouncement of the verdict. If no appeal (appeal, revision) is lodged against the judgment either by the public prosecutor's office or by the defendant or any private or joint plaintiff, or if the appeal is unsuccessful, the judgment becomes final. With the exception of proceedings against juveniles, the public prosecutor's office shall be responsible for enforcing the judgment.


  • In criminal proceedings, the court fees are calculated according to the final sentence imposed. The fees of the lawyer for the criminal proceedings are determined only by the framework (so-called framework fee). The attorneys determine the fee in each individual case, taking into account all circumstances, in particular the scope and difficulty of the attorney's work, the importance of the matter, and the client's income and financial circumstances, at their reasonable discretion.


The legal remedy against a district court judgment is appeal or revision.


Responsible for editing:Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Justiz

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