In German penal law, does an attorney (Staatsanwalt) have to prosecute own relatives (parents children, siblings, etc.)? If no, by what law (I could not find any that would provide them with that right)? If so, are there some case examples?

  • My strong guess is that ordinarily it would be conflict of interest for him to do so, that he or she would be forbidden from doing so, and that a different attorney in the office (or someone assigned from a neighboring office or more central office if no one was available in the office) would be assigned to that case instead. The answer is probably not in the German penal law and is instead probably in the law regulating lawyers or the law and regulations pertaining to prosecutor's office organization.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 13, 2017 at 4:37
  • Good point. With your hint I could find this in German Wikipedia. Does this also apply to attorneys? Nov 13, 2017 at 14:15
  • The material you cite from Wikipedia discusses rules of conduct for attorneys.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 13, 2017 at 22:49
  • Are you referring to a prosecutor (Staatsanwalt) or an attorney-at-law (Rechtsanwalt)?
    – erebus
    Sep 5, 2021 at 14:36
  • The former, as stated in the question. Unfortunately the translation into English is ambiguous. Sep 6, 2021 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Attorneys are normal officials (Beamte), so the laws about officials apply to them. So e.g. for North Rhine-Westphalia (there are similar laws in the other states) § 47 Gesetz über die Beamtinnen und Beamten des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (Law about officials of the state North Rhine-Westphalia):

(1) Beamtinnen und Beamte sind von Amtshandlungen zu befreien, die sich gegen sie selbst oder Angehörige richten würden, zu deren Gunsten ihnen wegen familienrechtlicher Beziehungen im Strafverfahren das Zeugnisverweigerungsrecht zusteht.

(1) Officials are to excuse of official actions, that are against them or their relatives, if they have the right to refuse to testify against them in criminal proceedings.

(my bad translation)

These relatives are according to § 52 Strafprozessordnung (Code of criminal procedure): fiancée, spouse (even ex-spouse) and any "person who is or was lineally related or related by marriage, collaterally related to the third degree or related by marriage to the second degree."

So attorneys do not have to prosecute their relatives.

In some (but not all) German states this is not only a right of the attorney, but they are forbidden to perform official actions in processes against their relatives. So e.g. in Saxony-Anhalt, § 14 I n. 2, 3 Ausführungsgesetz des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt zum Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz (Law of the state Saxony-Anhalt to implement the Courts Constitution Act)

Ein Beamter, der das Amt der Staatsanwaltschaft ausübt, darf keine Amtshandlungen vornehmen, wenn er


  1. Ehegatte oder Eingetragener Lebenspartner, Vormund oder Betreuer des Beschuldigten oder Verletzten oder einer Partei ist oder gewesen ist;

  2. mit dem Beschuldigten, dem Verletzten oder einer Partei in gerader Linie verwandt oder verschwägert, in der Seitenlinie bis zum dritten Grade verwandt oder bis zum zweiten Grade verschwägert ist oder war;


An official, who exercises the office of a prosecutor, is not allowed to perform official actions, if he is or was


  1. the spouse or registered life partner, guardian or legal curator of the accused or of the injured or of a party;

  2. lineally related or related by marriage, collaterally related to the third degree or related by marriage to the second degree to the accused or to the injured or to a party;


(my bad translation)

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