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Documents are information carriers , the signature included.


The concept of a document must contain something written. According to the definition of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), writing is a materially embodied compilation of signs “which can be perceived by the eyes or the sense of touch , directly represent words and indirectly represent thoughts”. In addition, it must have a certain durability, i.e. it must be maintained over a longer period of time. This definition is broader than the meaning of the word “document” in the colloquial sense. In the Duden , a document is described as "officially written down" or "official, official letter". The document is the means of transport and evidence to convey a specific thought content. In this form, documents are of considerable legal and factual importance. Laws and jurisprudence therefore use the term document very often, but avoid a legal definition and assume that it is known. This is an indefinite legal term .


A document must have passed the drafting stage and be placed on the market with the knowledge and will of its issuer (will to act on the right). Written form within the meaning of Section 81 Paragraph 1 Clause 1 VwGO therefore requires a written form and, in principle, a personal signature . Electronic documents are considered to be written if they have a qualified electronic signature in accordance with Section 2 No. 3 of the Signature Act . The document has an issuer and at least one recipient.

Documents in Laws

The term document is very common in law. The broadest definition of the concept of a document can be found in Section 202 (1) No. 1 StGB, which deals with the secrecy of letters and is based on the "sealed letter or another sealed document". The central concept of the confidentiality of letters is the document. According to this, a document can be handwritten or contain a printed text, foreign languages or Chinese characters are also included in the offense, notes , secret scripts , drawings and picture scripts also fall within the scope of protection, but a signature is not required. Part of the essence of a document is that it embodies a conceptual content. Even documents that are intended exclusively for the personal use of the author ( diaries ) are covered by the offense of confidentiality of letters.

Of the many other legal provisions in which the document is mentioned, the following should be singled out:

  • The filing regulations of the individual federal states stipulate that “a document initiating the procedure must in principle ... be registered under a number”.
  • § 1901c BGB (right of care ): "Whoever has a document ...".
  • Section 11, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code ( clarifications of terms under criminal law ) makes it clear that criminal offenses that are linked to “ writings ” and cite the provision of Section 11 of the Criminal Code are alsoapplicableto sound and image carriers , data storage media , images and other representations. Ultimately, every embodied or otherwise (e.g. electronically) available explanation of ideas can be the starting point for corresponding criminal offenses. However, if you only write to and for a single recipient (or for yourself), you are not producing any “writing”.
  • Service regulations under civil procedural law deal with the service of documents from § § 173 ff. ZPO (in particular § 180 , § 181 , § 183 or § 188 ZPO). Documents in connection with legal proceedings are considered to be judicial documents.


Documents may origin or copies or photocopies be, they can singly or in mass Prints ( mass printed matter occur). Contents of letters , business letters and business letters are like the procedural pleading also to the documents. The carrier medium can be analog media such as B. paper or microfilm , but also digital media such as a data memory, on which electronic documents can be stored. Several pieces of writing or documents on a subject area are called - depending on the area - process , bundle or written material . Duplications of documents are, for example, digital copies , photocopies and facsimiles .

Evidence, certificates

All documents are documents, but not all documents are documents. In contrast to documents, documents do not always have to contain something conclusive or legally binding . Therefore, documents do not always have to have a certain durability.

See also

Wiktionary: document  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Herbert Tröndle / Thomas Fischer, StGB, 53rd edition 2006, § 11 Rn. 33.
  2. ^ The document , Der Duden online, 2013.
  3. BVerwG NJW 2006, 1989.
  4. Bernd Schünemann, Major Commentary on the Criminal Code, §§ 146-210 StGB , 2009, p. 1419
  5. a b BT-Drs. 7/550 of May 11, 1973, draft EGStGB, p. 237 (PDF; 11.2 MB)
  6. § 1 sentence 2 NRW file regulations
  7. cf. on this inter alia Herbert Tröndle / Thomas Fischer, StGB, 50th edition 2001, § 11 RdNr. 43 as well as the case law of the BGH on § 93 StGB old version, BGHSt 13, 375, 376
  8. Rolf A. Schütze, legal sources and materials: §§ 1067-1088 ZPO , 2006, p. 463.