Age plays a big role in determining criminal responsibility in Poland. People generally think that only if you do something illegal at a certain age can you be investigated and taken to court. This idea stems from the belief that it’s only at a certain age you become mature enough to make rational decisions. So, younger folks might just face some kind of educational steps, while more serious punishments, like jail time, are meant for grown-ups.
Criminal Responsibility – At What Age in Poland?
Allow me to explain, as a rule, criminal liability starts in at 17 in Poland. But there’s a catch. If someone does something wrong when they’re 17 but not yet 18, they might be considered under the educational steps set for those under 17, depending on their situation.
The level of maturity is key here. If we’re talking about major crimes like murder, severe harm, or rape, and the young person involved seems mature enough, they could be held accountable from age 15.
Lawmakers think that certain basic crimes can’t be excused by age. So, if a 15-year-old fully understands how serious their actions are and is thought to be mature, they’ll be held responsible, even for something as grave as killing another person.
↳ PRO TIP: Do you like traveling? Then before you buy any ticket or book an attraction, check if it's available in this worldwide Viator Database. You may save a lot of money and time. No need to thank me :)
Keep in mind, this judgment is usually subjective and should be evaluated by experts like psychologists and lawyers who are well-versed in this area.
Who Counts as a Minor in Poland?
In Poland’s Criminal Code, there’s a term called 'juvenile’. This refers to anyone who was under 21 when they committed a crime and under 24 at their first trial. You might be wondering why this distinction matters.
I think it’s worth saying that Article 54 of the Criminal Code can shed some light. It says that when a court punishes a juvenile, the main goal is to help them become better. So, the court can sometimes show understanding, considering the offender’s young age, their lack of experience, and any possible youthful recklessness.
- I think you may also like this article: Death Sentence in Poland – The Dark Chapter of Last Execution in 1988
It’s also important to note that the Criminal Code doesn’t allow life imprisonment for a minor, i.e., anyone who was under 18 when they committed the crime. This is a crucial detail. It means that even a big mistake made in youth shouldn’t ruin a person’s entire life.
For juveniles aged 17 to 18 in Poland, the harshest punishment is a 25-year sentence. For those aged 15 to 17, the maximum sentence can’t be more than two-thirds of what the law normally allows.
The court also has the power to show extraordinary mercy. It’s safe to say, while young age doesn’t justify crime, it does play a significant role in deciding the punishment.
Who’s Considered a Minor Under Criminal Law in Poland?
Let’s tackle the criminal liability of minors. To do that, we first need to understand who falls under the category of minors. Although the Criminal Code often refers to a 'minor’, it doesn’t define what this means.
From Article 10 of the Civil Code, we gather that any person under 18 is considered a minor. However, the Criminal Code fine-tunes this a bit. It introduces the concept of a 'juvenile’ and includes everyone under the age of 17 in this group.
When Do Minors Face Criminal Liability?
According to Article 10 of the Criminal Code, the basic rule is that anyone who breaks the law after turning 17 can face criminal liability. So, actions by minors aren’t regarded as crimes.
As such, juveniles usually aren’t subjected to criminal liability. Instead, the Juvenile Proceedings Act lays out certain steps that apply to them. But there are two exceptions to this general rule that sets 17 as the age of criminal responsibility in Poland.
What are the Exceptions to the Rule?
The first exception is about a juvenile who’s at least 15 when they commit the crime. They could face criminal charges if the crime is one of those listed in Article 10(2) of the Criminal Code, considering the case’s circmstances, the juvenile’s development level, personality, personal situation, and particularly if previous educational or corrective steps haven’t worked.
Here’s the list of those serious crimes:
- Trying to kill the President of the Republic of Poland;
- Deliberately causing a transport disaster;
- Participating in gang rape or incestuous rape;
- Taking hostages;
- Intentionally causing severe physical harm;
- Intentionally causing a widespread danger;
- Creating a disaster in land traffic;
- Hijacking an aircraft or ship.
In cases like these, age is a factor but not the only one when it comes to deciding accountability. It’s a complex matter where various circumstances have to be considered.
- You may also like this article: Butcher of Zakopane: He Dreamed of Becoming a Serial Killer
Penalties and Extraordinary Leniency for Juveniles
Allow me to explain that the penalty given to a juvenile can’t be more than 2/3 of the highest possible punishment for that particular crime. The court also has the power to apply extraordinary leniency.
The Second Exception to the Rule
I already mentioned that above, but the second exception is when an offender commits a crime after turning 17 but before reaching 18. In such cases, the court doesn’t give punishments as such. Instead, it uses educational, therapeutic, or corrective measures intended for juveniles. This decision depends on the case’s circumstances, the offender’s development, and their personal conditions.
What Can the Family Court Do?
For minors, aside from the exceptions I just mentioned, the family court has several powers after hearing the case.
- Give a warning;
- Require them to do specific things, like fixing the damage caused, working for the victim or the community, apologizing to the victim, studying or working, taking part in appropriate educational, therapeutic or training activities, avoiding certain places or environments, or not using alcohol or any other intoxicants;
- Assign a responsible guardian;
- Place them under the supervision of a youth or other social organization, workplace, or reliable person who can vouch for the minor;
- Appoint a curator for supervision;
- Send them to a probation center, social organization, or institution that deals with the work of minors in an educational, therapeutic, or training manner, after consulting with that organization or institution;
- Prohibit driving;
- Confiscate goods related to the crime;
- Place them in a foster family, youth education center, or youth social therapy center;
- Send them to a correctional facility;
- Apply other measures mentioned in this Act under the jurisdiction of the family court, and use the measures in the Family and Guardianship Code, with the exception of placing in a foster family relative, non-professional foster family, family children’s home, day support center, care and education institution, and regional care and therapeutic institution.
The family court can also require the parents or guardian to improve the upbringing, living, or health conditions of the minor, and to cooperate closely with the school the minor attends, the counseling and guidance center or other specilized counseling center, the workplace where the minor works, and the doctor or medical institution.
They can ask the parents or guardian to repair in full or partially the damage caused by the minor. The court can also request competent state or social institutions and local government units to provide necessary assistance in improving the upbringing, living, or health conditions of the minor.
No Immunity Due to Age
Wrapping things up, I believe it’s important to remember that age doesn’t shield anyone from criminal liability. In Poland, the law has various ways to respond to crimes and misdemeanors committed by minors. So, even minors cannot feel unpunished.