Laws, Civil and Criminal.Edit
The present codes of civil and criminal law (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch; Gesetzbuch fur Verbrecher, etc) were drawn up by a commission of lawters at the command of the late Emperor Francis I., and published by his orders after discussion in the council of state. They are much praised as a compilation of legal theories, but are open to the objections raised against all codes in practical respects; and in Austria the deficience is not allowed to be remedied, as the decisions of the judges are not published, and each judgment passed under a paragraph of the codes is a fresh improvisation on the part of the judge. If it be by chance discovered that under the same circumstances a former judge or another court decided differently, the case is referred to the ministry of justice, which decides what the law is in that particular case, but the decision is not to be taken, as a construction of the law for future cases. The judges are removable, and may be promoted at the pleasure of the crown; but, like all other employees, can only be dismissed with pensions, unless convicted of improper conduct by some court of justice. In all cases the trials take place in secret, and the proceedings are in writing; even the examination of witness is not public; the decision is according to the votes of the president and assessors of the court. Criminal trials are protracted to an enormous length; and accused persons, as in Germany, are often suffered to be in prison for years before their cases are brought on: when, if the trial be of complicated nature, it may last from three to four years! The punishment of death can only be inflicted after confession. The lists of mortality furnish for the eleven provinces which they embrace, the following average of capital crimes and executions during the five years 1833-1837: Murdered, 429, Executed 33. Whence it would appear that a vast number of criminals annually escape detection. A statement, published by M. Koch, in the Vienna Gazette, gives the following details for Hungary;
The same writer states, that of ninety executions which took place in the other provinces of the empore between 1824 and 1828, twenty-eight were summary executions without trial. This period, as well as the one regarding Hungary, does not embrace the year in which the cholera raged in the different provinces, during which the period martial law was, to a great extent, established. The police board occupies, with respect to the tribunals of law, a similar position to that occupied by the emperoor's cabinet in respect to the council of state. The preventive power intrusted to it being naturally one which no law either prescribes or controls, it is a formidable instrument. The political and local exercise of its authority is very strict in Austria, and includes not only the preservation of public order, but the permitting strangers to reside in any part of the empire, the allowing subjects to change their place of abode or to travel, passports being required even in the country itself, and frequently only procured after long delay and much trouble. The sanatory police is on an extensive scale, and is, perhaps, as well managed as it can be in so extensive an empire by a public board. The police of the provinces is intrusted in the large towns to a board whose officers are appointed by the crown, in small towns to the magistracy; in the country the captain of the circle unites these functions with his judicial and administrative powers.