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The age of criminal responsibility is 10 years of age. Before that, no criminal proceeding can be undertaken. However, as in many European countries, an act of an underage minor that satisfies the definition of a statutory offense can be reason for a civil law child protection measure in terms of Art. 307 ff. Civil Law Code. For juveniles under 15 years of age, only a reprimand or community service of up to 10 days can be ordered. According to Art. 24 and 25 JCC, monetary fines, imprisonment, or community service of more than 10 days can only be imposed after the age of 15. Thus, the relatively low age of criminal responsibility has to put into perspective (before the JCC took effect the minimum age of criminal responsibility was 7 years): even when the criminal law system for minors holds them to account at a comparably early age, “typical” penal sanctions in Europe cannot be imposed until age 15. With that age Switzerland is thus in line with the European average in this regard (Pruin 2011). [1]

The application of adult criminal law begins at age 18. Soft transitions, which are currently a topic in several European countries (Pruin & Dhnkel 2015), are not recognized by Swiss juvenile criminal law. A draft of Art. 100 of the CC from the 1960s by an expert commission, which intended to regulate the inclusion of 18-20 years old offenders into juvenile criminal law, was not put into force (Stark 1963). Art. 61 of the CC recognizes a special “measure” for young adults aged 18-25, resulting in a placement in a special institution for the age group. This measure for young adults is similar to equivalent youth measures but legally is considered part of the adult criminal law system. Pursuant to Art. 16 para. 3 JCC, an adolescent having reached 17 years of age can be placed in such an institution for young adults. Conversely, pursuant to Art. 61 paragraph 5 CC and by way of exception, young adults can be placed in a youth facility (Aebersold 2011). If sanctions and measures are applied on young adult offenders, the age and maturity of the offender is taken into account (Art. 47 CC).

  • [1] According to Art. 21 para 1 lit c. community service can however be applied as a diversionarysanction in Switzerland as well.
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