Swiss law is a set of rules which constitutes the law in Switzerland.
Structure and Sources
There is a hierarchy of political levels which reflects the legal and constitutional character of Switzerland.
According to the current Federal Constitution (SR 101 Art. 1, 3) and the principle of subsidiarity (Switzerland) (SR 101 Art. 5a) and the Title 3 Confederation, Cantons and Communes (SR 101), the Cantons of Switzerland "are sovereign except to the extent that their sovereignty is limited by the Federal Constitution. They exercise all rights that are not vested in the Confederation" and "the principle of subsidiarity must be observed in the allocation and performance of state tasks".
Some major aspects are:
- the Swiss Federal Constitution (SR 10),
- acts of parliament ("laws") or by-laws,
- delegated legislation, regulations, or ordinances, and
- adjudication (binding decisions) by competent tribunals.
The federal government publishes legal instruments in three principal official publications:
- the Classified Compilation (German: Systematische Sammlung des Bundesrechts (SR), French: Recueil systématique du droit fédéral (RS), Italian: Raccolta sistematica del diritto federale (RS), Romansh: Collecziun sistematica) is the official compilation of all federal laws, ordinances, international and intercantonal treaties that are in force,
- the Official Compilation of Federal Legislation (German: Amtliche Sammlung des Bundesrechts, AS; French: Recueil officiel du droit fédéral, RO; Italian: Raccolta ufficiale delle leggi federali, RU) is the federal gazette, and
- the Federal Gazette (German: Bundesblatt, BBl; French: Feuille fédérale, FF; Italian: Foglio federale, FF) publishes various official texts of the federal government.
All three publications are issued in the three official languages of Switzerland: German, French and Italian. All three language editions are equally valid. They are published by the Federal Chancellery of Switzerland in the form of weekly supplements to loose leaf binders. Since 1999, they are also made available on the Internet in PDF format (as well as HTML in the case of the SR/RS).
Some particular laws
The Swiss Civil Code (SR 21) was adopted on 10 December 1907 (Status as of 1 January 2016, SR 210) and has been in force since 1912. It was largely influenced by the German civil code, and partly influenced by the French civil code, but the majority of comparative law scholars (such as K. Zweigert and Rodolfo Sacco) argue that the Swiss code derives from a distinct paradigm of civil law.
The Swiss Criminal Code (SR 311) of 21 December 1937 (Status as of 1 July 2016, SR 311.0) goes back to an 1893 draft by Carl Stooss. It has been in effect since 1942.
Among the notable changes to earlier Swiss criminal law was the abolition of capital punishment in Switzerland and the legalization of homosexual acts between adults (until 1990, the age of consent for homosexual acts remained set at 20 years, compared to 16 years for heterosexual acts).
The code has been revised numerous times since 1942. The most recent revision (as of 2010), in effect since 2007, introduced the possibility to convert short prison sentences (below one year) into fines, calculated based on a daily rate which has to be established based on the "personal and economic situation of the convict at the time of the verdict", with an upper limit set at CHF 3000 per day of the sentence. Practically all prison sentences shorter than one year have since been converted into fines, conditional sentences (parole) to conditional fines. This has caused controversy because the result is that lighter offences not punishable by imprisonment always result in unconditional fines, while more severe offences now often result in conditional fines that do not need to be paid at all. The Federal Council in October 2010 announced its intention to revert to the earlier system, and all large parties expressed at least partial support.