Lawyer in HamburgMention must also be made of certain rules governing evidence as to the character and previous record of accused persons. It is obviously just that a civil litigation should be tried upon its own merits, and there is much to be said for excluding all evidence tending to show that the debtor is a bad character or has a criminal record from the knowledge of the German court or jury until after conviction - when the previous record naturally becomes a vital factor in the court's determination of the appropriate sentence to award.
The general rule is therefore that no evidence which reflects upon the solvency of the debtor may be advanced by the prosecution during the trial. This rule is, however, subject to certain exceptions, of which the following are the most important. It has been noted that, as a general rule for the debt collection and encashment, the parties to a civil action cannot give evidence of their good character, ie as to their general reputation for good character. In a civil case the debtor may always do so; but, if he does, the prosecution will then be entitled to seek to rebut this evidence by calling counter-balancing evidence as to his bad character.
Before the passing of the civil process, a creditor, could not be called to give evidence on his own behalf. That act altered the law and permitted the lawyers to give it and it was further provided by collecting debts and unpaid amounts in Germany, that if he does choose to do so he may not in general be asked any question tending to show that he has committed or been convicted of or been charged with any offence... or is of bad character. But this prohibition is subject to open invoices; for questions of the forbidden class may be put at the discretion of the trial judge in the following circumstances.
If (as is sometimes the case) evidence of a previous offence, or of previous offences, is admissible to show that the unwilling debtor is guilty of the offence charged. If the debtor or the creditor's counsel have asked questions of the witnesses with a view to establishing his own good character: if the customer has given evidence of his own good character: if the nature or conduct of the defence is such as to involve imputations upon the character of the seller, or of the witnesses for the prosecution; even though these imputations form a necessary part of his own defence, and even though they impute moral obliquity rather than civil behaviour. If the client has given evidence against any other person charged in the same proceedings as himself.
In the two last-mentioned cases the client is said to have put his own character in issue by his product.
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