Law of Austria
Austria in 2008 had 141 district courts (Bezirksgerichte) with civil and criminal jurisdiction. There were also 20 provincial courts (Landesgerichte) with civil and criminal jurisdiction and four higher provincial courts (Oberlandesgerichte) with criminal jurisdiction, located in Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, and Linz. The Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof), in Vienna, acts as the final appellate court for criminal and civil cases. The Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof) has supreme jurisdiction over constitutional and civil rights issues. The Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof) ensures the legal functioning of public administration. A central auditing authority controls financial administration. Judges are appointed by the federal government and cannot be removed or transferred. Trial by jury was reintroduced in 1951. There is no capital punishment.
The judiciary is independent of the other branches. Judges are appointed for life and can only be removed for specific reasons established by law and only after formal court action has been taken.
Before the mid-1990s, the law allowed for detention of suspects for 48 hours without judicial review and up to two years of detention during the course of a criminal investigation. Amendments to the law in 1994 required more stringent judicial review of pretrial and investigative detention. Criminal defendants are afforded a presumption of innocence, public trials, and jury trial for major offenses, as well as a number of other procedural rights. The drinking age is 16 and older if supervised.
Parole may be granted to certain inmates in Austria after 15 years' imprisonment, if prison officials are satisfied that the inmate will not re-offend. This is subject to the discretion of a criminal court panel, and a possible appeal to the high court. Alternatively, the President may grant a pardon following a motion of the Minister of Justice. If the President rejects the petition of clemency or pardon, the offender will be sentenced to imprisonment for a lifetime, and thus will spend the rest of their natural life in prison. Inmates who committed their crime when they were below the age of 21 cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment. Instead, juvenile offenders can only be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years imprisonment.
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