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Frieder Ddnkel and Wolfgang Heinz


The legal status of juveniles is defined by civil and penal law and in certain other laws concerning specific rights and duties. According to § 1 (2) of the German Juvenile Justice Act (Jugendgerichtsgesetz, JGG), a juvenile is a person who at the time of committing a criminal offence has reached the age of 14 and not yet the age of 18. The same paragraph also deals with young adults, i.e., the age group of between 18 and under 21 years of age. As will be shown, this age group of young adults is also dealt by the juvenile justice system. In civil law, children under 7 years of age are not responsible for any act, whereas persons at the age of 18 reach the status of full contractual capability. Between 7 and 17 there is a limited contractual capability and children can be responsible for acts of damage if they had the capacity to understand the wrongdoing and to act according to that.

There are other age limits beyond the threshold of 18. Children at the age of 14 can choose their religion, at 16 they can marry, and at 17 they are allowed to make their driver’s license.

There is no criminal responsibility for those under 14. In these cases, only Juvenile Welfare and Civil Law can be applied (JWL, called Sozialgesetzbuch Vol. VIII, SGB VIII of 1990 and the Civil Code, Btirgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB). The juvenile welfare agencies act on the local level of the communities on the demand of parents; exceptionally measures can be imposed by the Family Court, §§ 1631b, 1666, 1666a BGB (incl. placement in closed residential care).

F. Dunkel (*) • W. Heinz

Rechts-und Staatswissenschaftliche Fakultat, Department of Criminology, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universitat Greifswald, Domstr. 20, 17487 Greifswald, Germany e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ; This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

S.H. Decker, N. Marteache (eds.), International Handbook of Juvenile Justice, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-45090-2_15

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