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The lowering of the criminal majority from 18 to 16 is an old debate… which resurfaces regularly when minors are implicated in cases that strike public opinion.


In France, the criminal majority applies to 18 years. For the same facts, a minor cannot be punished as harshly as an adult (except in extremely rare cases). However, the closer a minor approaches his majority, the more he incurs a significant number of sanctions.
However, the law does not set a minimum age below which a minor cannot report. A child under the age of 10 can be criminally responsible. The only thing that counts is his discernment, his ability to understand the consequences of his actions.
A minor cannot be judged by the ordinary courts (example: criminal court). It comes under the juvenile judge or a juvenile court.
Depending on his age, the minor risks different categories of sanctions:

– Minor under the age of 10:
He can only undergo educational measures such as a handover to the parents, a handover to the child welfare services, placement in an educational establishment or in a medical establishment, a reprimand , a measure of probation, a measure of daytime activity.


– Minor from 10 to 12 years old:
He can undergo the same measures as a minor under 10 years old. He also risks educational sanctions such as a solemn warning, a more severe form of admonition pronounced by the court and not the juvenile judge, a ban (up to 1 year) from appearing in certain places, a ban (until to 1 year) to socialize with certain people, confiscation of objects, a measure of assistance or reparation or the compulsory follow-up of a civic training course. Violation of one of these obligations may be penalized by placement.


– Minor from 13 to 15 years old:
He can be condemned to the same measures and sanctions as a minor from 10 to 12 years old but he also risks a fine of 7,500 euros maximum, placement in a closed educational center within the framework of a suspended sentence with probation, a prison sentence, which cannot exceed half of the maximum provided for an adult guilty of the same facts.


– Minor aged 16 and over
He may be subject to the same measures and sanctions as a minor aged 13 to 15. He is also at risk of community service. In addition, the court may sentence him to more than half or even all of the prison sentence provided for an adult depending on his personality and the circumstances of the offence.
Similarly, a minor aged 16 and over may be sentenced to the same fine as an adult.


Alternatives to prosecution:
If he considers that prosecution is not necessary given the facts and the personality of the minor, the prosecutor can order alternative measures. He can in particular decide on a reminder of the law in the presence of the parents. Other measures are possible, with the parents’ agreement, such as referral to a health, social or professional structure, a civic training course, consultation with a psychiatrist or psychologist, compensation for damage, mediation between the author and the victim or a penal composition, if the minor is over 13 years old.


Société d’Avocats DAMY , Nice, Should the criminal majority be lowered to 16?, Update 2022