Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

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Dr Carolin F. Hillemanns
Research Coordinator

Dr Annika Hampel
Recruitment Officer & Talent Acquisition Manager

Günterstalstraße 73
79100 Freiburg i. Br.

There are three research departments in the Institute: the Department of Criminal Law, the Department of Public Law, and the Department of Criminology. The Institute’s research focus includes both ‘basic’ (ie foundational or fundamental) research and, owing to its inter­disciplinary approach to the legal and social sciences, applied research.

The appointment of a new executive team in 2019 came with a comprehensive reorientation of the key guiding prin­ci­ples for their research agendas. The goal of the research undertaken in the Department of Criminal Law is to deepen our understanding of criminal law and to stimulate further development at the national and international levels. Our basic research includes analysis of the normative premises and empirical foundations of the law in force and comparison of principles, rules, and practices in different legal systems. Some of the normative conclusions drawn from these analyses will form part of a transnational theory of criminal law. In addition to basic research, our work includes the development of proposals designed to improve criminal law and to adapt it to changing conditions in fragmented, digi­tal­ized, and globalized societies.

The research agenda of the  Department of Public Law addresses the preventive aspects of security-related matters. Besides general theoretical and doctrinal questions, which in security law are frequently of heightened relevance, our research analyzes contemporary legal, technical, and social developments—internation­al­ization, digitization, and fragmentation—along with associated normative challenges of danger prevention regarding fundamental rights protection, the rule of law, and democratic principles.

The research pro­gramme of the Department of Criminology focuses on the theoretical and empirical explanations for conforming and deviant behaviour. The objective is to explore how individual behaviour manifests itself ad hoc, how it changes or develops over time, and how it can be ex­plained. To this end, drawing primarily on psychological theories, innovative new research methods are employed, in­clud­ing computer-assisted experiments using virtual reality software.

These complementary research approaches enable the Institute to address current security-relevant issues from a basic research perspective, analytically, and with an eye to influencing legal policy.

Research Areas

A major focus on the normative foundations of criminal law (such as theories of criminalization, assumptions behind criminal law doctrine and foundational concepts), based on comparative and/or interdisciplinary insights. Criminal politics in fragmented societies and a critical analysis of contemporary policy initiatives are other research areas, as well as gender related issues, for instance in the area of sexual offences or femicide.

Focusing on theoretical innovation (integrated and interdisciplinary development of theory, in particular between contextual and individual-level factors in the explanation of criminal behaviour), methodological innovation and technology (building on criminal decision-making research and the application of technologies such as virtual reality to study crime), and putting crime into practice (connecting theory, innovative methods, and technology to policy and practice).

Constitutional law, administrative law, constitutional theory, analytical legal theory, and public security law—especially fundamentals of public security law (theoretical foundations and doctrinal structures), trends (internationlization, digitalization, fragmentation) and challenges (fundamental rights, rule of law, democracy).


Research Highlights

Joining the Institute

The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law welcomes external scholars for limited research stays in criminal law, criminology, public law, legal theory, and legal philosophy on a temporary basis. There is the possibility for scholars to undertake research leading to a doctorate. You can also join us as a postdoc, senior researcher, or research group leader.

For further information and application please visit the Institute’s website: