The proceedings for juvenile offenders are governed by the Juvenile Court Act (Jugendgerichtsgesetz – JGG),
which can also apply if an 18–21-year-old commits an offence.
The JGG applies for this age group if the character of the offence shows a lack of maturity or the offender, in the development of his personality, is still at the level of an adolescent.
Juvenile criminal law differs from general criminal law in various points.
The reason is that for most juveniles, criminal behaviour is just a passing phase of their development, which needs to be addressed primarily with an educational approach. However, the criminal code is still the basis for dealing with juvenile delinquency. The types of behaviour punishable under law are the same for everyone.
The difference is in the legal consequences. Under the JGG, the court can order educational measures, disciplinary measures and youth custody sentences.
The court trial is also different. The trials are carried out by a juvenile court judge, a Jugendschöffengericht (1 presiding judge and 2 lay assessors) or by a division of the juvenile court. The trial is generally non-public. Representatives of the judicial protection office participate in every trial.