In dubio mitius

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In dubio mitius (iudicare) is a Latin phrase and a rule of law. Translated, it means 'milder in case of doubt (decide / judge)': circumstances that cannot be determined should be interpreted in favor of the accused .

In dubio mitius concretizes the presumption of innocence and is related to in dubio pro reo . The principle was already part of the Greek as well as the Roman legal conception . However, the use of the phrase “in dubio mitius” is only certain later.

When applied, the principle serves, among other things, for the interpretation of international treaties on the exchange relationship between performance obligations . Here, it is assumed that it is the will of all parties to the contract as possible Sovereignty carefully interpreted.



In Germany, the principle is derived from Article 103 (2) of the Basic Law , Article 6 (2) of the ECHR and from Section 261 of the Code of Criminal Procedure .

In formal German criminal law (criminal procedure law), the milder law is to be applied if the defendant's guilt has not been proven beyond doubt after the main hearing or if there are reasonable doubts. In principle, the indubio sentence is always applicable to every examination of the characteristics of criminal liability, since the investigative authority ( public prosecutor's office ) has to prove that the behavior according to the offense has been carried out and at the same time must also determine exonerating circumstances. In the trials in which the inquisition maxim does not prevail, the burden of proof is opposed to the indubio sentence.


In the Austrian criminal law code , lex mitius is also to be understood as § 61 StGB as a supplement to § 1 StGB: The retroactive effect of criminal laws, which is otherwise avoided , is applied if the new law passed after the offense is more favorable for the accused.