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Lowering the criminal age to 16? It already exists! Just dismiss the excuse of minority

Lowering the criminal age to 16? It already exists! just dismiss the excuse of minority

The ordinance of 1945 which governs the rights of minors, modulates the penal sanctions according to the age of the minor at the time of the facts.

This is the excuse of minority: The penalties applicable to minors are halved compared to those incurred by an adult. For example: Theft is punishable by 3 years of prison, the minor therefore incurs, because of his minority, a maximum of 18 months of prison.

But the principle in matters of criminal responsibility is that the closer the minor gets to the majority, the more the excuse of minority is rejected. It all depends on his profile and the seriousness of the acts committed.

Small reminder in numbers to understand the population affected by juvenile justice

Reminder of the penal sanctions incurred by minors

  • Minor under 13: Educational measure (no pre-trial detention, no prison sentence)
  • Minors between 13 and 16 years old: Provisional detention (6 months renewable once for crimes) + prison sentence the quantum of which is half of the sentence prescribed for adults: The excuse of minority applies automatically.
  • -Minor between 16 and 18 years old: Provisional detention (1 year renewable once for crimes) + prison sentence, the quantum of the sentence of which will depend on the profile and the seriousness of the facts prosecuted.

Judges can either:

  • apply the excuse of minority: Half of the sentence provided for adults (simple facts, tags ...)


  • dismiss the excuse of minority and apply the sentence prescribed for adults. These minors will be tried like adults.

The problem of the legal lowering of the penal majority?

Not all affairs of minors between the ages of 16 and 18 are organized into organized crime. You have to know how to assess all situations on a case-by-case basis.

Unfortunately the only purpose of imposing the legal majority is to remove any judgment from the judge as to the interest of applying this excuse of minority or not.

We must get out of this hackneyed pattern according to which the judges of the children lack severity. In practice, judges have long hesitated to reject the excuse of minority when minors commit serious offenses. It has practically become the norm.

The proof ?

The figures of the Ministry of Justice 2013, attached below in their entirety in pdf.

Legal clarification: In law we retain the past age. A 17-year-old minor is therefore in his 18th year.

Out of a total population of 6 million minors aged 5 to 10 in France, there are 17 criminal cases involving minors aged 234 to 000: i.e. 10% of minors

Details of offenses:

  • Attacks on property without violence: 43% (simple theft, damage, burglary, car theft, etc.)
  • Violence against property: 6% (phone snatching, racketeering, theft with weapons, etc.)
  • Attacks on persons: 27% (light violence, fights, sexual assault, etc.)
  • Drug use and possession: 14%
  • Others: 10%

Minors aged 16 or 17 involved in criminal cases represent a total of 47%.

The penal response (prosecution before juvenile courts) is 93% (60% in 1994).

First offenders: 1st arrest

  • Alternative measures (reminder of the law, CRPC, etc.): 55%
  • Sentences (closed prison or suspended sentence): 45% In 2013, 3 minors were incarcerated in an establishment for minors or in a juvenile section in a remand center); 000 minors placed in a closed educational center (CEF).

65% of minors tried for the first time will no longer have contact with the justice system

Repeat offenders: 2nd arrest within 5 years

This concerns 35% of minors already tried

  • Alternative measures: 5%
  • Sentences (closed prison): 95%

To know : Recidivism rate after prison time climbs to 75%

Recidivist minors were:

  • sentenced to a new prison sentence: 66%
  • sentenced outside prison: 9%

Hence the importance of modulating the applicable penalties according to the profile of the minor and the seriousness of the facts to avoid the risk of recidivism.

What you must remember ?

Make no mistake, lowering the legal age of majority is an announcement effect to relaunch a political campaign that is bogged down, because this measure has no legal interest.

This is nonsense both for lawyers and for all the professional actors involved in the education of minors (judges, specialized lawyers, educators, etc.), who know, from their experience and their training, who are the elderly minors. from 16 to 18 years old who will have to be judged as adults.

The law on minors (the ordinance of 1945) has already been amended several times and always in the direction of severity.

Another perverse effect, modifying the penal majority would result in recognizing that the minor is too young to get married, to work, to open a bank account… But large enough to be automatically placed in prison, which is contrary to all international conventions. protecting the fundamental rights of minors.

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