What is the Juvenile Courts Act?
In court juveniles aren’t judged like adult persons. Accordingly there’s a special act applying to juveniles who are prosecuted for an offence: the Juvenile Courts Act (Jugendgerichtsgesetz, JGG). The JGG takes into account the age and the mental/moral development of juveniles.
To whom does the Juvenile Courts Act apply?
The Juvenile Courts Act applies to young persons aged between 14 and 18 years. In the case of adolescents aged between 18 and 21 years it is usually the Criminal Code that is applied to them. But if an adolescent’s state of mental/moral development is the same as a juvenile’s the Juvenile Courts Act can be applied to them, too. In fact the judge decides which kind of act will be applied.
What kind of sanctions and sentences does the Juvenile Courts Act include?
First, there are educational sanctions. With these educational measures one can response to the offence of an young person. Sanctions of this kind include judicial directions (the juvenile has to do community services, he has to seek attendance or has to take part in social group work) and orders that put a ban on meeting certain persons or visiting particular places.
Secondly, there are disciplinary measures. These are short-term sentences which teach the juvenile an educational lesson. They include rebukes, warnings and/or legal restraints (like compensating a damage, doing community services, paying a fine or apologizing personally) or juvenile detention. Such a detention of juvenile delinquents can last up to four weeks.
Third, there is juvenile custody. A custody according to the Juvenile Courts Act ranges between six months minimum and ten years maximum. Life imprisonment is no sentence given to juveniles.
A juvenile custody ranging between six months and two years can be suspended on probation, i.e. the convicted needn’t go down to prison. But he has to get in contact with his probation officer regularly and underlies several conditions of probation. So he has to give note to the court if he moves and he mustn’t lose his job due to his own fault. If he doesn’t abide to these rules or commits another crime in the period of probation the probation will be recalled. In this case the juvenile is threatened by custody without probation and has to go down to prison.
Is my sentence recorded anywhere?
All the measures and sentences that are inflicted on juveniles in the course of penal procedures are recorded in the Federal Educational Register (Bundeserziehungsregister). Information about these records is given only to investigating authorities like the public prosecutor’s office or to the court, to prisons and to youth offices. All entries are deleted when the person concerned is getting 24 years old if there had been no juvenile sentence recorded in the Federal Central Register (Bundeszentralregister).
A prison sentence is a real juvenile sentence and it is recorded in the Federal Central Register, no matter if it’s suspended on probation or not. If the person concerned doesn’t commit any further crime the entry is deleted after a few years.
Does my clearance certificate contain any reference that I had to do community services?
If for example someone had to do community services, if he had to take part in a social group work or if he has got a judicial instruction to attendance this is not recorded in his clearance certificate for it is no real juvenile sentence. Even a juvenile sentence of two years in custody will not be recorded, if it is suspended on probation. But in principle juvenile sentences are recorded in the clearance certificate until the entries are deleted.
Do I have a criminal record because I had to do community services?
No, for community services are no real sentence for young offenders. You are allowed to be mute about everything that is not recorded in the clearance certificate, if there are for example any questions about that in the course of a job interview.
Can I be punished if I’m not yet 14 years old?
A person who is not yet 14 years old is considered a child and therefore can’t be held accountable. Children can’t be prosecuted for an offence. That means that the public prosecutor and the juvenile court do not take action. But if a child commits an offence the Youth Office will be informed and possibly will get in contact with the child’s parents. So even offences committed by children do have consequences.