Michael Jackson formally charged

Some German law blogs have noted that there has been an Anklageschrift against Michael Jackson. I’m not sure that’s right.

Apparently prosecutors have two procedures to follow:

In the case of a misdemeanor (similar to German Vergehen), a prosecutor files an accusatory pleading in court. The pleading is called a criminal complaint, an information, or a petition. (An information is a Strafanzeige, I would say).

In the case of a felony (as in Jackson’s case; similar to German Verbrechen), the above accusatory pleading is one possibility. And that’s what has happened here: the pleading is called a criminal complaint and is signed by the district attorney.

Alternatively, there may be an indictment handed down by a grand jury (this would be Anklageschrift for me).

About half the states, mainly in the east, require prosecutors to use a grand jury. Other states allow the prosecutor to choose the procedure.

Source: Bergman and Berman-Barrett, The Criminal Law Handbook, Nolo Press 2003, ISBN 0-87337-928-4
(take a look at the Nolo Press site – it’s very nice).

Dietl calls criminal complaint Strafantrag (which is confusing, because a German Strafantrag or application for prosecution is made by a person who is the victim of an offence that can be prosecuted only on the victim’s application). Romain has Strafanzeige.

Via jurabilis, Handakte WebLAWg, law blog.

6 thoughts on “Michael Jackson formally charged

  1. Interesting terminological points, Margaret.

    1. I wonder whether Strafantrag is approx. the Eng. & Wales private prosecution – or is it a victim pressing criminal charges with the police?.

    2. The ‘felony complaint/criminal complaint’ describing ghost/white-faced Whacko as ‘blck’ of race might correspond to the Eng. & Wales ‘preferment of a Bill of Indictment’ (Anklageschrift – so what’s the charge sheet called?) prepared by the CPS and signed by a Crown Court Officer.

    3. I’d also go along with your ‘laying of an information’ – a grammatical exception where information can be pluralised – for Strafanzeige.

  2. I may have got carried away on the distinction in this one!
    I found ‘polizeiliches Anklageblatt’ for charge sheet, but it sounds odd – I suppose it plays a small role in German law.

    Re Strafantrag – there are not really private prosecutions in German (or American) law, at least there are, but only in the case of a few minor offences. In German law there are Antragsdelikte and Privatklagedelikte, which are difficult to keep apart and I think overlap. Take defamation (Verleumdung, üble Nachrede): this is a criminal offence, but the public prosecutor will not pursue or prosecute it unless the victim makes a Strafantrag, an application for prosecution – then, however, the public prosecutor will pursue it. It’s true the victim can start the ball rolling and prosecute, which is very like a private prosecution (the public prosecutor can take the case over at any time), but it’s only with regard to these very few offences: various kinds of bodily harm, damage to property, criminal trespass or insult / defamation.

    Hope this does not cause more confusion than it attempts to clear up.

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