As in most other countries, Dutch law is divided into three fields of law or jurisdictions:

Civil law

Civil law, also known as common law or private law, consists of a material and a formal part. The substantive part establishes rules regarding the relations between citizens and/ or corportions. Civil law is very extensive and includes family and inheritance law, corporate law, labor law, tenancy law, tort and liability, banking law, mortgage law, copyright law, transport law, bankruptcy law, property law, consumer law and personal injury law to a few. The formale civil law , also known as civil procedure law, establishes the substantive rules of conduct in civil procedures.

Characteristic of civil law is that individuals themselves have the right, or rather, the necessity to activate it. There is, unlike with criminal law , no central authority that brings infractions of ones rights before a judge . If a person feels that his or her rights are violated, the person is question, if matters can not be amicably resolved, he or she can/must the matter to the attention of the court.

Administrative law

Administrative law, also known as administrative law, is rather ‘young’ compared with other two jurisdictions. Its emergence is a consequence of the large expansion and intensification of government involvement in society since the end of the 19th century. Its purpose is twofold: firstly, to provide legitimacy tot governmental/administrative bodies and their officials, and secondly to offer subjected citizens and corporations with a certain degree of protection against random governmental infringement of their rights. Administrative law regulates the relationship between the government and citizens and/or companies and governmental bodies, as well asa the manner in which the public administration can intervene in public life. The administrative law consists of a material and formal part. The material part of administrative law consists of the rules and regulation in all matters of law includin civil servants law, tax law, social securities, immigration law, environmental law, construction law and countless laws concerning subsidized  (semi) government tasks like child care and home care.

The formal part relates to the exercise of powers and the state of affairs and position of government and stakeholders (citizens and / or companies) in legal objection or  opposition procedures and appeal procedures. The general rules of administrative law can be found in the General Administrative Law Act, abbreviated Awb. Besides the general administrative law, numerous specific laws, administrative regulations dictate how the governing body may use its powers may be used. The leeway which the authority has to exercise its powers, distinguishes between discretion and discretion. Because administrative law is far younger than civil law and criminal law, one will find that a great deal of matters are are not or insufficiently regulated, as a result of which citizens and businesses more often not are not fully and correctly informed about their rights and obligations. Moreover, overlaps or intersects of administrative with both older jurisdictions can complex cases greatly for example by enforcing administrative regulations through private law or the sanctioning of violation of administrative regultations through criminal/punitive fine. The mere fact that in case of private enforcement of administrative law the principles of the latter apply, yet when administrative punitive fines are imposed it is in fact the criminal protection that applies, probably makes administrative perhaps the most confusing of the three jurisdictions.

Criminal law

Of all jurisdictions criminal law is perhaps the strictest regulated and not without good reason. For the infringements committed by the government on the rights of citizens and businesses in the context of criminal law are, as a rule, far more drastic than those in the private or administrative law, while punitive sanctions are usually much heavier. In material criminal law are therefore the maximum penalties established that citizens and businesses can get imposed if they do not abide by the rules and therefore commit a criminal offense. There are two types of offenses: violations and misdemeanors misdemeanors. Violations are relatively minor offenses, crimes are serious offenses. All offenses are stringently regulted in laws, such as the Dutch Penal Code and special penal laws as the Opium Act en de Road Traffic Act. However, in some administrative and private law criminal facts are included.

The formal part, called criminal procedure law,  oversees the protection of the central figure in the criminal law, the accused. Other main characters are: the victim, the police and/or special investigating officers (customs, FIOD, Labour, Royal Military Police, etc), the public prosecutor, the examining magistrate, the witness, the expert and the trial judge. The formal procedure begins with the investigation as the police or the prosecutor has a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed an offense. Unlike many people (want to do) believe a suspect however is not (synonymous with) the perpetrator. After all, the law defines ’perpetrator’  as the person who has been proven guilty beyound reasonable doubt of committing an offense, while  investigation and prosecution are meant to determine whether or not the seuspect has done just that.

Anyone who is suspected of an offense is committed is most ardently adviced to seek the legal aid of a criminal defense attorney. The attorney – in this respect called counsel – defends the rights of suspects against police and justice and defends the accused before trial. Everyone has the right to be assisted by a lawyer. Those who do not have or can not afford a preferred or private attorney, are in case of arrest or prior to interogation, apppointed an attorney assigned by the Legal Aid Council. This is compensated by the government, so there is no cost for the suspect. Minors always get a attornery added – this can also be a preferred lawyer – for the entire procedure.

By no means all criminal cases are brought before the court: in criminal law are also other procedures. The police, like the prosecutor can deal with some offences for instance by themselves. This can be done two ways, the police or prosecutorial dismissal,  by which (further) prosecution is not started or discontinued and the police or prosecutorial transaction. The police can simply only offenses and certain minor offenses may itself give final, the prosecutor may dismiss all offenses themselves. The prosecutor has to relieve the judiciary broad powers to conduct business on the dispute through the Act OM-settlement. There are also plans to grant police and special officers wider powers under that Act. For minors, finally the additional possibility of Bureau Halt excists, which is meant to keep 12-16 year olds outside the criminal law system yet clearly convey that (certain) misconduct is not acceptable.