Bohlander on German criminal law/Buch von Bohlander

I’ve mentioned Michael Bohlander’s translation of the German Criminal Code before. That was when he translated both Mord and Totschlag as murder.

I’m not sure that I mentioned his book Principles of German Criminal Law.

The great thing about this book is that the author has thought through the terminology of both German and English criminal law, and all his language is based on an understanding of both. That should go without saying in such a book, of course, but it doesn’t.

I was reminded of its usefulness this week when I was translating something about Absicht (dolus directus ersten Grades). I would usually translate this as specific intent – for instance, to be found guilty of theft, you would need to have specific intent to steal. But when it comes to a text that is more detailed, then I need to go to a textbook for more vocabulary.

Categories of Intent and Delineation from Advertent Negligence

Depending on the degree of knowledge and will employed, German law traditionally recognises the following degrees of intent, in descending order:

a) direct intent in the first degree: Absicht, wissentlich, wider besseres Wissen, ‘um zu’;

b) direct intent in the second degree: Direkter Vorsatz or dolus directus; and

c) conditional intent: Bedingter Vorsatz or dolus eventualis.

I found the term delineation in the heading a bit odd. Advertent negligence is used for bewusste Fahrlässigkeit.

There is more following this introductory list. The book is recommended thoroughly as one of those books comparing two legal systems that are so useful in legal translation.

5 thoughts on “Bohlander on German criminal law/Buch von Bohlander

    • Yes, and I suppose from dictionaries it may look OK, but delineate happens to be used mainly for describing – another word with similar etymology.

  1. I am very pleased the book is useful for your work. May I add a comment about the use of “specific intent”: In English and Welsh law this has a particular connotation because of its use in the context of the defence of voluntary intoxication (VI) where so-called “specific intent offences” are covered by VI but “basic intent offences” are not. A specific intent in this context, broadly speaking, is an intent that goes beyond knowledge of the conduct elements of the actus reus (objektiver Tatbestand) and typically encompasses some ulterior result or objective. Thus, while theft is a specific intent offence in English law because it requires factual appropriation (not the same as “Wegnahme” in

    • Ah, thank you – didn’t realize I was so visible. I do remember, when I taught an elementary version of English law to students, telling them, in an oversimplified way, that theft and murder both require specific intent. This went through my mind when I was writing this entry, and of course I could see it about theft, but the definition of malice aforethought is so wide, including intention to hurt someone really seriously, that I couldn’t see it. So thank you for the note, since it had been causing me confusion. I suppose the specific intent for murder is still more specific than for other homicide offences.

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