Home Law International Handbook of Juvenile Justice
ALTERNATIVE SANCTIONS FOR JUVENILES
Next to the traditional fines and imprisonment sentences (see the special modifications for young adults p. 231), juvenile law covers a wide range of reactions and sanctions (with or without intervention) in the Juvenile Court Act.
Beyond the sanctions in the JGG, it has to be noted that Austrian juvenile criminal law offers special rules in cases of delayed maturity and moderate misdemeanours committed by juveniles under the age of 16.
Next to the minimum age of criminal responsibility—near to the age of 14 years—§ 4 excludes punishment when the juvenile offender, due to certain circumstances, was not capable of distinguishing right and wrong, or of acting accordingly. This so-called “delayed maturity”, which must be demonstrated by an unusual level of development retardation, must be examined in relation to the single criminal act. It may be caused, e.g. by social or psychological defects, child neglect, or by illness. As a rule, such cases are settled with the help of experts.
There is another reason for non-punishment for juveniles under 16. There is immunity for members of this privileged group for any moderate misdemeanour. If the juvenile who has committed a misdemeanour without serious fault does not show special reasons which speak for the enforcement of juvenile penal law to prevent the offender from committing further acts, immunity is granted; the threshold of serious guilt (schweres Verschulden) is reached when, in a specific case, the guilt and unlawfulness of the act concerned surmounts the typical. In all such cases, the public prosecutor must drop the charge.
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