Criminal cases; trial and decision before the district court

The district courts have first instance jurisdiction to hear and determine certain criminal cases.


The law determines which court and which panel of judges is called upon to hear and decide a criminal case. Of decisive importance in this respect is the nature of the offence 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 offences) or the Higher Regional Court (e.g. for serious state protection offences),
  • in the individual case a sentence exceeding 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 offence who are possible witnesses.

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

If the offence charged to the Local Court is a misdemeanour (unlawful act punishable at least by imprisonment of less than one year or a fine) and a higher sentence than imprisonment of two years is not to be expected in the specific case, the judge at the Local Court decides as a single judge (criminal judge). Otherwise (if the offence 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 decision is taken by the court of lay assessors, which as a rule consists of one professional judge and two lay assessors.

The court makes its decision on the basis of its free conviction drawn from the trial. If the court cannot be convinced of the guilt of the accused, it may not convict him ("in case of doubt for the accused"). The main trial 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 accused or any private or joint plaintiff, or if the appeal is unsuccessful, the judgment becomes final. With the exception of proceedings against juveniles, enforcement of the judgment rests with the public prosecutor's office.


  • In criminal proceedings, the court fees are calculated according to the final sentence imposed. The fees of the lawyer for the criminal proceedings are only determined by the framework (so-called framework fee). The lawyers determine the fee in each individual case, taking into account all circumstances, in particular the scope and difficulty of the lawyer'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.

Status: 12.08.2021

Responsible for editing: Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Justiz

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