The Public Prosecution Offices

Public prosecution offices are special bodies separate from the courts, safeguarding the public interests in the administration of criminal justice. This primarily involves bringing in charges against persons and raising and representing indictments in criminal proceedings. Public prosecution offices are judicial authorities, but in contrast to the courts, they are not independent. They have a hierarchical structure and are bound by instructions of senior public prosecution offices and ultimately of the Federal Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice.

A public prosecution office is set up at every regional court in charge of criminal cases. The public prosecutors of these courts are in charge of raising and presenting indictments, both before regional courts and district courts of the respective regional court district. As a rule, district prosecutors will present indictments at district courts. They are public officials with special expertise, but do not require university training.

Senior public prosecution offices are one level above public prosecution offices and have been established with the regional courts of appeal in Vienna, Graz, Linz, and Innsbruck. In addition to acting for the prosecution before higher regional courts, they are also responsible for supervising all public prosecution offices in their district and report directly to the Federal Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice.

The Procurator General’s Office, set up with the Supreme Court, holds a special position. The Procurator General reports directly to the Federal Minister of Justice, but does not have the right to issue any instructions to public prosecutors or senior public prosecutors. Nor does he raise any indictments, but is in charge of supporting the Supreme Court. In order to comply with this task, he is especially authorised to lodge so-called “nullity appeals in observance of the law” in criminal matters, in which parties have no (further) possibility of appeal to the Supreme Court. He thus serves an important function in preserving the uniformity of the law, as well as in providing legal certainty in matters of criminal law.

The Austrian judiciary has been confronted over more than ten years with an increasing number of most voluminous economic criminal matters with multiple international ramifications. The increased complexities of such proceedings require new concepts and structures for achieving efficient and successful interventions by the investigative bodies. With the Central Public Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption (Wirtschafts- und Korruptionsstaatsanwaltschaft), a new prosecuting body was established on 1 September 2011, in which the necessary competence and know-how for prosecuting large-scale economic crimes and corruption are concentrated in a qualified and efficient manner.