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What are the penalties for juvenile crime?

Young people between the ages of 10 and 18 who commit crimes are subject to a special form of criminal law, known as juvenile criminal law. Juvenile criminal law is made up of the Juvenile Criminal Code (JCC) and the Juvenile Criminal Procedure Code (JCrimPC).

Children are criminally responsible from the age of 10

The age of criminal responsibility is the age at which a person can be punished for an act that the law deems to be a criminal offence. In Switzerland, children aged 10 and over are regarded as criminally responsible. Younger children are not criminally responsible. It is up to the parents of a child under the age of 10 to decide whether and how to react to the child's conduct. If necessary, the guardianship authority can order a child protection measure.

Education is more important than punishment

The priority for young offenders under Swiss juvenile criminal law is that they are protected and educated. This means that often they are not punished in the normal sense, but are made subject to educational or therapeutic measures.

Types of sanction

The Juvenile Criminal Code provides for two types of sanction: protection measures and penalties.

Protection measures

  • Supervision
  • Personal care
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Placement with a family or in an educative or treatment facility

Penalties

  • Caution
  • Personal work order: maximum duration generally 10 days, but up to 3 months for 15 to 18-year-olds who have committed a felony or misdemeanour.
  • Fine of up to CHF 2000: for 15 to 18-year-olds
  • Custody
    • up to 1 year: for 15 to 18-year-olds, who have committed a felony or misdemeanour
    • up to 4 years: for 16 to 18-year-olds who have committed a serious felony

Filing a criminal complaint

If a crime is committed, you can notify the police and make a complaint. Before doing so, you can get support and advice from a victim support agency.

For further information on juvenile criminal law, consult the website of the federal authorities.