The Legal Systems of Saudi Arabia, Germany and the US


This paper will discuss the legal systems of Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the United States. One should examine the judicial structure, corrections systems, and the legal tradition in these countries. Much attention should also be paid to the historical development of these nations and the way in which their culture affects existing laws. Overall, the differences in the legal systems of these societies can be attributed to cultural and historical legacies that shaped social relations for a long time.

Saudi Arabia

The legal system of Saudi Arabia has several distinct elements among which one can distinguish a strong reliance on religious law, authoritarianism, and centralization. This country has adopted a model of centralized policing in which the line of command originates from the monarch. The authority of police is derived from the Sharia law and executive orders passed by the king. The responsibilities of police in this state include investigation and prevention of crimes as well as enforcement of Islamic norms (Bhatti, 2018).

The judicial system of Saudi Arabia is also subordinate to the king who can overrule the decisions of various courts (Bhatti, 2018). A significant role is played by Sharia courts that hear the cases to which Islamic laws apply. Furthermore, there is the so-called Board of Grievances that relies primarily on royal decrees, rather than the norms of the Quran (Bhatti, 2018). At present, the Saudi government is reluctant to disclose information about its corrections system and penal institutions.

However, various international organizations often report numerous violations of human rights in Saudi prisons (Stohr & Walsh, 2017). On the whole, this country has the Islamic legal tradition based on the Quran as well as the Sunnah.

The historical development of Saudi society has been determined by several factors. Firstly, the territory of this country has been a part of the Islamic world in which the boundary between state and religious institutions is not always marked (Bowen, 2014). Furthermore, throughout its history, Saudi Arabia has been an absolute monarchy (Bowen, 2014). Thus, the culture of this society is characterized by a strong influence of religion, centralization, and lack of citizens’ involvement in politics. Due to these reasons, the Islamic law governs people’s social relations. Moreover, Saudi monarchs can still exercise almost complete control over the legal system.


In Germany, the legal system is characterized by several elements, namely, the codification of laws, decentralization, and restrictions imposed on the authority of governmental institutions. The police system of this state is decentralized which means that law-enforcement agencies in this country are subordinate to different German states, rather than the federal government (Eckhard, 2016). The main exception is the Federal Police that performs such functions as maintaining border security, counter-terrorism actions, and the support of local law enforcement agencies in case of different crises (Eckhard, 2016).

The correctional facilities in Germany are aimed at enabling criminals to re-integrate themselves in society (Wetzell, 2014). These institutions are operated by states; yet, their functioning is governed by the federal law (Wetzell, 2014). There are different types of such institutions, for instance, juvenile prisons, local jails, high-security prisons, and so forth. The judiciary system of this country is an independent part of the government.

There are different types of judiciary institutions; for instance, one can mention ordinary courts, administrative courts, patent law courts, and so forth (Wendler, Tremml, & Buecker, 2013). Furthermore, there were state and federal courts hearing different cases related to constitutional law (Wendler et al., 2013). It is possible to argue that the legal tradition of Germany is based on civil law or codified rules, rather than court decisions and executive decrees.

The legal system of this country has been driven its historical and cultural development. Firstly, the territory of this country was once included in the Roman Empire whose legal tradition was based on civil law or codified regulations (Mousourakis, 2014). It is also important to recognize the impact of the Napoleonic Wars that resulted in the adoption of codified laws in various territories of present-day Germany (Mousourakis, 2014).

One should also discuss the effects of World War II because this event shaped the cultural values of Germany. In particular, the downfall of the Third Reich made German culture averse to different forms of totalitarianism and centralization. Moreover, much emphasis is placed on the rules specified in different regulations, rather than the decisions of political leaders and governmental officials. This is why modern German law limits the authority of the federal government as well as officials. The strong influence of the common law tradition is also derived from the political culture of this country.

The United States

The legal system in the United States has such attributes as the strong influence of common law tradition and decentralization. Firstly, the U.S. police system is decentralized; in part, this situation can be explained by the political structure of the country (Oliver, 2016). In America, states can exercise much control over local policies, including the work of law enforcement agencies (Oliver, 2016).

Therefore, state police departments have the authority to investigate crimes and enforce the law within certain jurisdictions. Furthermore, much attention should be paid to the role of county police departments and sheriff’s offices. Correctional system in this country is premised on the idea that the same penalties cannot apply to different offenders. This is why there are various types of prisons such as juvenile facilities, mental institutions, high-security prisons, and so forth (Oliver, 2016). These organizations are expected to follow both federal and state laws.

The judicial system of the country has a complex hierarchy originating from the structure of the U.S. government. At first, it is vital to speak about federal courts that have jurisdiction over constitutional issues and federal laws (Orren & Compton, 2018).

Additionally, a significant role is played by state courts hearing various criminal cases and civil disputes (Orren & Compton, 2018). American legal tradition is marked by the strong influence of common law or legal precedents shaping the decisions of judiciaries and governmental officials (Orren & Compton, 2018). Nevertheless, these professionals also have to rely on various codes and regulations enacted by the government.

The historical development of the United States has been shaped by several factors. At first, researchers focus on the colonial past that shaped many aspects of the country’s political culture and administrative structure. For instance, the strong influence of the common law tradition can be attributed to the colonial past (Orren & Compton, 2018). It is also critical to speak about the country’s struggle for independence and the Civil War that had a substantial effect on American society. They created a culture that rejects every form of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. These aspects are reflected in the U.S. legal system that restricts the power of the federal government and governmental officials.


The United States, Germany, and Saudi Arabia have legal systems based on different principles. These distinctions can be explained by the historical and cultural legacies of these states. These factors are helpful in analyzing such issues as the source of law in the country and its legal tradition. Additionally, they are critical for understanding and describing the systems of checks and balances existing in the legal system.


Bhatti, M. (2018). Islamic law and international commercial arbitration. New York, NY: Routledge.

Bowen, W. (2014). The history of Saudi Arabia (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Eckhard, S. (2016). International assistance to police reform: Managing peacebuilding. New York, NY: Springer.

Mousourakis, G. (2014). Roman law and the origins of the civil law tradition. New York, NY: Springer.

Oliver, W. (2016). Policing America: An introduction. New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

Orren, K., & Compton, J. (Eds.). (2018). The Cambridge companion to the United States Constitution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Stohr, M., & Walsh, A. (2017). Corrections: From research, to policy, to practice. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.

Wendler, M., Tremml, B., & Buecker, B. (Eds.). (2013). Key aspects of German business law: A practical manual (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.

Wetzell, R. (2014). Crime and criminal justice in modern Germany. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.

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LawBirdie. "The Legal Systems of Saudi Arabia, Germany and the US." March 22, 2023.