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Criminal justice reform bill: impact on court interpreters

At the mention of check cards, some may frown and pull out their cell phones to Google the term. Yes, these no longer exist. But the abuse of the same is still listed as a criminal offense in the German Criminal Code (StGB) in 2019, as is deportation to the German Democratic Republic, which ceased to exist more than 30 years ago. At the end of 2019, long outdated and redundant facts like these are scheduled to disappear from the criminal code with the Criminal Code Reform Act. The Bundestag passed the law on the Moralization of Criminal Law.

Law on Court Interpreters - GDolmG

Among other things, the law reform also introduces new regulations for the general swearing-in of court interpreters. The new Court Interpreters Act was published in the Federal Law Gazette Year 2019 Part I No. 46 on December 12, 2019.

What has changed?

The new law provides that the requirements for the swearing in of court interpreters, which currently vary from state to state, will be standardized at the federal level. In this context, the requirements regarding the professional qualification of court interpreters for general swearing-in were redefined.

Under Art. 6 of the Act on Modernization of Criminal Procedure, the new Act on General Swearing-in of Court Interpreters (Court Interpreters Act – GDolmG) was published. According to section 3 (2) of the GDolmG “Antrag auf allgemeine Beeidigung” (Application for general swearing-in), the necessary prerequisites are redefined, which, unlike before, are now to apply nationwide and are to be uniform in all federal states.


The requirements for general swearing in are met by individuals who, among other things, have taken and passed an interpreting examination of a state or state-recognized examination office or a university in Germany or have taken an interpreting examination abroad that is considered equivalent in Germany. If these two criteria are not met, the following alternative qualifications may be submitted and used for a decision in accordance with section 4 of the GDolmG:

  • A certificate of successful completion of language studies at a recognized university abroad. It is not necessary for the degree to be recognized in Germany.
  • A nationally recognized C2 language certificate of the European Framework of Reference.
  • A high school diploma or a certificate of a comparable degree from the home country.
  • A certificate from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce confirming successful completion of further training as a certified translator or certified interpreter.

In case of doubt, an entrance qualification test is required.

Limitations on Being Swon-in

Section 7 of the GDolmG also provides for a time limit on the general swearing-in. This amounts to five years. However, court interpreters may request an extension for an additional five years if the requirements continue to be met.

The Higher Regional Court or the Regional Court in whose region the interpreter is resident or has their place of business shall remain responsible for the general swearing-in (§ 2 GDolmG). In Berlin, the Court of Appeal continues to have jurisdiction.

Liability is excluded for the accuracy and/or completeness of the information provided. Please check with the appropriate offices for any changes.

The new Law on Court Interpreters GDolmG will finally come into force on July 01, 2021.

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