Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 251–293 | Cite as

The cultural limits on uniformity and formalism in the German penal code

  • Shawn Marie Boyne

The defense attorneys who come [here] from other areas [of the country] would say that our sentences are too harsh. . . When I [sitting as a judge] asked a prosecutor why he was recommending such a strict sentence, he told me that he had a strict father. His father told him that if you want to be a good person, you have to work hard. . . It was his strict upbringing.1

Here, in this large city, we dismiss many cases that would proceed to trial in a mid-size city that is located a mere 30 km from here. It is a question of resources.2

There are relationships between the police, prosecutors, and judges. . [T]he history of sentencing establishes a certain culture in a state.This culture is also influenced by political factors. For example, the political culture in Bavaria is extremely traditional and conservative while it is more liberal in Northern Germany. Surveys of prosecutors indicate that they possess a higher level of punitive attitudes and this affects their attitude towards their...


Criminal Justice System Department Manager Public Prosecutor Criminal Procedure Legal Tradition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank Richard Humphrey for his dedicated assistance in locating reference materials as well as the hospitality of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law. I would specifically like to thank Craig Bradley, Monica Eppinger, SpearIt, Marianne Wade, Anders Walker, and George Wright for comments on an earlier draft of this paper and Jennifer Cooper for her research assistance.

Methodological Notes

The interviews conducted for this project were completed during three different periods of field research in Germany that occurred in: 2005–2006, 2007–2008, and during a three month period in the fall of 2010. The bulk of the interviews were tape recorded and subsequently transcribed. During this time, I conducted interviews and/or participant observation studies in 14 of the 16 German Länder and in twenty different German cities. The participant observation studies included periods of courtroom and workplace observation. To enhance the validity of the data collected, I also interviewed over two dozen judges and defense attorneys. In order to protect the anonymity of the interviewees, I use fictitious place names as well as a numerical coding system to identify documents


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of LawIndianapolisUSA

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