Expert Opinion Section
The Expert Opinion Section is responsible for the coordination of responses to inquiries directed to the Department of Criminal Law concerning German and foreign criminal law and the main focuses of the department’s topical sections, especially those questions from courts, offices of the prosecutor and other agencies, lawyers, and the media. These inquiries generate numerous and varied impetuses for the department’s research; furthermore, the responses provided are extremely helpful for addressing cases with a foreign legal dimension. In 2011/2012, the section handled 97 inquiries, 64 of them from criminal justice agencies. Among the countries most queried are Germany (incl. topical sections: 18 queries), Italy and the USA (7 queries each) and United Kingdom (6 queries).
The connections between practical questions and the issues pursued by the research program of the Department of Criminal Law generate valuable impulses for research. On occasion, individual inquiries even lead to major international projects (for example, the expert opinion prepared for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia entitled “General Legal Principles of International Criminal Law on the Criminal Liability of Leaders of Criminal Groups and Networks”). A more recent example is the request of the German Federal Constitutional Court for an expert opinion on the criminalization of incest, which later spawned the development of a comprehensive comparative legal-criminological project that investigated aspects above and beyond the issues dealt with in the expert opinion. The results of an expert opinion prepared for the Federal Constitutional Court on remote online searches also had a considerable impact on future research at the Institute. Another recent example concerns the issue of the legal requirements for and possible duration of preventive detention in various countries. These examples indicate the importance of the department’s multifaceted and special knowledge to the practice of law in a world in which criminal law is becoming increasingly internationalized and globalized.
Inquiries from German practitioners often raise the question of whether acts with ties to a foreign country (e.g., location of act or nationality of perpetrator) are recognized as crimes in that country. Other frequently raised issues involve the cooperation of agencies by way of legal assistance, extradition, foreign laws of criminal procedure, and human rights. Preliminary questions of criminal law in the context of other legal areas, such as asylum procedures, civil compensation for damages, issues pertaining to personal status, and business investment decisions, are also of interest. Inquiries often pertain to areas of specialization covered by the research program, including law and medicine, Internet law, environmental law, corporate law, and white collar crime. Inquiries to the Institute are often the only way of obtaining valuable and necessary legal information. Thus, expert opinions prepared by the Department of Criminal Law serve not only to clarify concrete, individual cases but also address comparative, criminal policy concerns of domestic and foreign legislatures and institutions.