In Indonesia there are laws called "delik aduan" that define acts as crimes only if someone files a complaint.

These are like civil laws in that someone has to file a complaint, but they are like crimes ("pidana") in that the penalties include incarceration.

One such law is defamation: It's only a crime if someone that feels hurt by some speech reports it and sues. Otherwise it's not a crime. I.e., law enforcement will not search for or prosecute defamatory speech.

Another such law is adultery: It's only a crime if someone "complains" and reports it to cops. Otherwise it's not.

Basically, someone else, not the state can decide that this is a crime. Delik aduan laws are quite clear in that they require a private-party complaint.

Do we have such laws in US?

Many acts that constitute such crime are not prosecuted because nobody bothers reporting it.

However, in case of governor election, Ahok is jailed due to one such case. The law the way it is written is so elastic that anyone could be jailed by it. However, most of the time, the guy accused of the law is not running for gubernatorial election. Hence, most of the time, there is little incentive to use the law.

Western countries have elections too. They also have criminal and civil laws. Do they have "delik aduan" (reportable chapter) kind of laws?

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    Can you clarify: Does a person have to have a nexus to a delik aduan infraction to report it? Or can any person file the complaint? E.g., if I overhear defamation that does not defame me or my interests can I still complain? Can I do so if I happen to be a law enforcement officer?
    – feetwet
    Mar 19, 2018 at 13:19
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    Would it be accurate to say that "delik aduan" are essentially civil infractions, and it just so happens that Indonesian law allows for incarceration as a remedy in a civil lawsuit involving a number of civil offenses?
    – feetwet
    Mar 19, 2018 at 13:22
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    I don't think this has anything to do with civil law. "delik aduan" seems to be criminal law, but with special provisions on when it is prosecuted.
    – sleske
    Mar 19, 2018 at 14:24
  • Some countries like Germany have such laws. Such laws are rare or non-existent in the U.S. Other countries vary on this point. Almost all Islamic countries have some laws of this type. This said, prosecutors in the U.S. usually (but not always) consider a victim's wishes and are much less likely to press charges if the victim doesn't want this to happen. A few U.S. states allow victims to directly press criminal charges, but never to the exclusion of the state's right to do so in the absence of a complaint.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 20, 2018 at 2:57
  • @ohwilleke: That sounds like an answer (hint) :-).
    – sleske
    Mar 20, 2018 at 8:25

2 Answers 2


That sounds a lot like the German Antragsdelikt (literally "crime by request"). That is a crime (defined in the criminal code), that can only be prosecuted if the victim requests it.

Antragsdelikt mostly applies to less serious crimes, such as slander or petty theft, while "serious" crimes, such as robbery or assault must always be prosecuted (Offizialdelikt). Also, there are many minor crimes (relatives Antragsdelikt) which are usually only prosecuted by request, but where the prosecution can also decide to press charges if it is in the "public interest" (usually because the act is deemed a serious infraction).

Similar concepts exist in Austria and Switzerland.

  • When you say "must always be prosecuted", presumably you mean "... if there is enough evidence for a reasonable prospect of conviction" (to use the words that the CPS use in England and Wales to decide whether to prosecute). Mar 20, 2018 at 14:40
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    @MartinBonner: Yes, of course. That's really a matter of definition - the case will be prosecuted, but the result of the prosecution proceedings will be that the case is dropped.
    – sleske
    Mar 20, 2018 at 15:00

This is a layman's answer. No, they are not considered enforceable, and yes they try.

In a small town I lived in my girlfriend wanted to raise some chickens. So we got some chicks and they wandered around the yard, and we were issued a citation, with a copy of the city statue stapled to it. The law was said (to paraphrase, since it was awhile back and I have no copies), that you may have chickens, hens only, a couple of other guide lines, as long as none of your neighbors within 300 feet objected. I did some internet research as best I could without law library access and found a couple of cases to cite and wrote a motion to dismiss. (the city attorney countered with opps we gave them the wrong statue, I wrote another motion on that, then the chickens started getting killed by a local dog and we got rid of them. I went to CA and told him the chicks was gone and he withdrew.)

What I find out I think was based in a concept of common law that says something must be a crime in order to be a crime. Rather or not it is a crime or not cannot be subject to someone else deciding that they don't like it so therefore it is a crime. This is not like rather or not someone is reporting a crime, it is not the metaphor of a tree falling in the forest. In my case with the chickens, it only became a crime when one of my neighbor's decided it was a crime. I really could not know if having chickens was illegal or not. In other words the law was vague.

One of the cases I looked at was from the 40's or 50's when in a dry county a law was written that said one can open a bar that served alcohol free beer (near beer), as long as none of the city folk had an objection. If someone did object it then became a chargeable offense. Someone opened a near beer bar, some good citizen objected, the owner was cited and ordered to shutdown, he took it to court where the judge ruled in his favor. Saying essentially that having a law that said it was legal to do a thing, unless someone objected was absurd. It was no law at all since no reasonable person would be able to know if they were in violation of the law or not.

Its the same concept they had in Montana a couple decades ago. Montana had a speed limit of "reasonable and prudent" during daylight hours. Drivers were getting tickets for speeding were there was no speed limit. It went to the Montana Supreme Court. Supreme Court threw out the law as "unconstitutionally vague." The result was that the state of Montana now has a speed limit on the interstate.

So laws like your "delik aduan", may be on the books here in the US. However there does not seem to be a legal framework that will support them if push to comes to shove with a court challenge. A law cannot be vague without being subject to being unconstitutionally vague. Laws like your "delik aduan" seem to often come under this vagueness.

  • In a sense, it's not legal to do a thing... It's "illegal" but government says I will look the other way when no body is complaining anyway
    – user4234
    Mar 23, 2018 at 19:11
  • Unconstitutionally vague. What does that mean?
    – user4234
    Mar 24, 2018 at 6:44
  • That's the term the Montana State Supreme Court used to describe why they struck down the speeding law Reasonable and prudent. It means a law is so vague that nobody could reasonably know if they where violating a law or not. Vague means unclear.
    – Jon
    Mar 24, 2018 at 11:16
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    Well, isn't all law kind of vague? I mean that's why we have lawyers. Otherwise we won't need them. That's why supreme court disagree all the time
    – user4234
    Mar 24, 2018 at 18:53
  • Your missing the meaning. It is vague simply if you cannot know if your breaking a law or not. If the law allows something, but not if someone says no, it is a vague law. Its a fine point do a little research.
    – Jon
    Mar 24, 2018 at 21:46

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