Hail damage? Storm damage?
For children, growing older means more rights, but also more obligations and responsibility. Driving a car, moving out, getting married: That all comes at the age of 18. So far, so good. But from what age can they drink beer? Can they be held liable for damages? And from what age can they sign a purchase agreement? Leo Loosli provides answers to legal questions from the daily lives of teens.
There are no legal provisions governing the age from which young people can go out and until what time. For minors, the decision is at the discretion of the parents or legal guardians. As long as Lina’s parents consent to her staying out until 11 p.m., from a legal perspective there is no reason why she can’t.
Since Frederick is still a minor, his parents may prohibit him from going out within the scope of their parental responsibilities. In this case, however, Frederick’s parents are better advised to talk with their son and to address the subject of drug use. As an alternative, some cantons have points of contact for young people regarding drug use.
As a rule of thumb: Parents are responsible for their underage children and are liable for the damage they cause. According to law, such liability only exists in cases where the parents breach their duty of supervision.
A 15-year-old does not require specific parental supervision to ride a skateboard. For this reason, there is no breach of duty in this case. In other words: The neighbor would have little success in bringing legal action against the parents, and must stick with Nino.
However, in practice, the injured party usually contacts the parents directly and makes arrangements for the damage with the help of their liability insurance. It makes sense to do so for two reasons. Firstly, the relationship with the neighbor will not suffer. And secondly, Nino will not start adult life with debt (specifically a certificate of shortfall).
By giving others ecstasy pills, Nils’ friends are committing a crime, specifically a violation of the law on narcotics. The law makes not only the distribution, sale, or possession of narcotics a crime, but also their use. Thus all the people who take the pills are also committing a crime.
How should Nils respond? Depending on the individual situation, Nils may also be committing a crime. His “inaction” should be expected to qualify as lower-level complicity (so-called aiding and abetting) or, due to specific circumstances, a guarantor role (Nils’ responsibility for other people).
In this situation, Nils would be well advised to get an adult involved and to tell his friends not to hand out ecstasy pills to others at the party or to leave the party entirely. If need be, rescue services like the police must also be notified, for example if pills have already been consumed.
By spraying graffiti, Nora is deliberately causing damage to third-party property. Since Nora is still a minor, she will be punished according to juvenile law. The federal law on juvenile criminal law stipulates far more lenient punishments for individual crimes compared with adult criminal law.
Specifically, the catalog of sanctions includes:
In this case, Nora should expect an official warning, community service, or a fine.
In practice, however, few cases lead to criminal proceedings or a sentence. Since in the case of property damage, the offense cannot be prosecuted without a legal complaint from the injured party, first a criminal complaint must be filed before law enforcement agencies can initiate proceedings. Schools often do not file a complaint if the young person agrees to disciplinary measures pursuant to school regulations. Such a measure could be, for example, that Nora must clean the wall in her free time or that she receives a warning/reprimand.
According to youth protection law:
The age restriction 16/18 for the sale of alcohol is set out in national law and thus applies throughout Switzerland. Some cantons have tightened these restrictions. And some retailers – such as Coop, for example – only sell alcohol to persons aged 18 and over.
According to the federal law on spirits (Alcohol Act), stores are not allowed to sell spirits (which within the broader sense can also include alcopops) to persons under the age of 18.
However, there is no law which actively prohibits young people from buying and consuming spirits. The laws on youth protection transfer responsibility for the protection of young people to their parents. If a young person buys an alcopop and drinks it, they do not need worry about any legal repercussions. The store that sold the alcopop, on the other hand, runs the risk of a being issued a fine or having their license revoked.
The scenario that Marie buys beer for her younger friends is, of course, problematic when it comes to youth protection. But she has not necessarily committed a criminal offense. The act of “administering substances to children that are hazardous to their health” makes the provision of alcoholic substances in a hazardous amount a criminal offense.
If it is a very small amount and very low-volume alcohol (a shandy, for example), the act is likely not to be deemed a criminal offense. The higher the amount or the stronger the alcohol, the more the act becomes criminal.
In a purely legal sense, the act falls into the category of “administering substances to children that are hazardous to their health” if the parents offer their child an amount of alcohol sufficient to be hazardous to the child’s health. However, the “provision” of smaller amounts (for example, a sip of beer) is not a crime.
The regulations on youth protection are composed of various federal and cantonal laws. In these laws, the minimum age to consume tobacco and alcohol as well as the permitted whereabouts and duration in public are set out.
In this case, it depends on who the contractual party is. If Pascal has signed the contract in his own name and the parents have only signed for formal legal reasons (key word: parental consent), then Pascal is the contractual party. The rights and obligations arising from the contract thus only affect Pascal. For this reason, Pascal’s parents do not have to pay the fees of the boxing club. Regarding the question of who is actually the contractual party, it is worthwhile to read the contract through in advance and to ask questions if anything is unclear (for example, with your legal protection insurance or the contractual partner directly).
In practice, parents probably have a large interest in taking over the costs despite not being liable because the boxing club can initiate debt collection proceedings. If the club does so and no payment is made, a certificate of shortfall will be issued after the execution proceedings have been concluded. The boxing club can then initiate additional collection proceedings against Pascal at a later time. Pascal would then start his adult life with debt and would in some circumstances have difficulty taking out a loan or finding an apartment.
In general, young people are only entitled to freely choose their place of residence from the age of 18. Before they reach the age of majority, they cannot just leave their parent’s home if the parents have not given their consent. In individual cases, however, the relationship between the parents and the children may have suffered to such an extent that it is no longer reasonable for the child to remain resident in the joint household, and the Child and Adult Protection Authorities (KESB) can order the children and parents to live apart on order of the parents or the child.
If Simon’s parents consent to him moving out and moving in with his older brother, then Simon can do so. If the parents do not grant their consent to Simon’s request, then he must contact KESB to obtain authorization to move. If there are grounds that make living together seem unreasonable, then KESB will consent to the move.
Young people can also be sentenced to imprisonment for committing crimes and offenses. Crimes are acts for which the law (adult criminal law) stipulates imprisonment for over three years – for example, aggravated assault. Offenses are acts for which the law requires sanctions of up to three years imprisonment or a fine.
Offenders over the age of 15 can be sentenced to up to one year's imprisonment. If the young offender has already turned 16, they can be sentenced to up to four years.
From a legal perspective, the decision regarding whether Amina has to go on vacation with her parents or can stay home lies with the legal guardians, namely her parents. If they do not consent to her staying home alone, then she has to comply and go on vacation with them.
In a legal sense, children are considered to be of age for religious matters from the age of 16. That means that they can also leave the church without the consent of their parents. Since Elia is not yet 16, he still needs his parents’ consent to do so. The same applies to confirmation and the associated preparation classes. If Elia does not want to go, then he needs his parents’ consent for this too.
Since confirmation serves as a way to include young people in the church community and they are recognized by the church from that point on as mature Christians, it makes sense to talk with the child about the subject of church membership. Confirmation usually takes place between the ages of 15 and 16, i.e. on the threshold of the age of maturity in religious matters.
With reference to the “breach of confidentiality of written material”, parents are not entitled to open or read the messages of their children who are able to make sound judgment without a special reason for doing so or the explicit consent of their children. The related provision also includes electronic messages with end-to-end encoding, such as WhatsApp messages.
When Simon’s mother regularly reads the messages on his cell phone, she is committing a punishable offense through (repeated) breach of confidentiality of written material. If Simon files a legal complaint, she can expect to be fined.
In Switzerland, you can only get married if you are 18 years of age or older – in other words, able to exercise sound judgment and of age.
For this reason, Selma and her boyfriend must wait until Selma’s 18th birthday to marry, even though they have the consent of her parents.
The decision to receive the pill from a doctor falls in the category of highly personally rights. It requires the ability to exercise sound judgment, i.e. the ability to act reasonably in a certain situation. In general, it can be assumed that a 16-year-old is mature enough to decide regarding choosing a means of contraception.
Specifically: Janina is allowed to have the pill prescribed to her without asking her parents. She also does not have to worry that the doctor will inform her parents. Due to medical confidentiality, the doctor is not allowed to provide information to her parents.
The age of consent in Switzerland is 16. Anyone who has sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 is committing a crime. Sexual acts with children under the age of 16 are not punishable by law if the age difference between the participants is no more than three years. If the young person has turned 16, they are considered to be above the age of consent and may have sex with people of any age as long as they are also above the age of consent or the age difference is less than three years.
Since Ronja is only 15 and her boyfriend is already 20 (and thus more than three years older), he would be breaking the law by having sex with Ronja.
It is assumed that children and young people under the age of 16 are not mature enough to decide regarding their sexual relationships by themselves.
For this reason, the age of consent is 16 in Switzerland. This means that every sexual act with a child under the age of 16 is a crime.
The age of consent is designed to protect children and young people against experiences that could harm their sexual development.
Gian has only a restricted capacity to act: able to exercise sound judgment, but is a minor. The contract can only be concluded if the parents grant their consent to the conclusion of a legal transaction in advance or afterward. Exceptions to this rule are the purchase of items in the amount of a child’s allowance.
Since the price of a moped probably exceeds a child’s allowance, Gian’s parents can refuse to grant consent. In other words: Gian cannot buy the moped against his parents will.
Romina has only a restricted capacity to act. To duly sign an apprenticeship agreement, the parents must give their consent and co-sign the contract. Likewise, the parents’ consent is required to dissolve the apprenticeship agreement.
From a purely legal point of view, Romina can thus be compelled by her parents to complete the apprenticeship in an orderly manner.
In such situations, we recommend parents first talk with their children. In the end, it is worthwhile to contact the company offering the apprenticeship, and if necessary to consult the Federal Office for Professional Training, to find potential solutions. In this way, you can ensure that the young person can complete their training and be prepared for the labor market.
In general, young people are entitled to administer and dispose of income they earn themselves. However, the law stipulates that young people who still live together with their parents and who have a regular income (apprentice’s wage) must make an appropriate contribution to the household – if the parents request it.
The law does not set out which sum is deemed to be appropriate in individual cases. In extreme cases, the appropriate amount may even cover actual costs. However, we recommend a sum of around 10 to 20 percent of the apprentice’s wage.
In this case, Eron has only a restricted capacity to act (able to exercise sound judgment, but is a minor). As such, he requires his parents’ consent to legally sign an employment contract for a vacation job. Since his parents do not consent to Eron working in a carpentry firm over the summer, he will not be able to start the job without their consent.
According to employment law and the Ordinance on the protection of young people at work, children can take on light work from the age of 13. Light work is understood to mean work that does not have negative effects on the health, safety, or development of the young person, and that does not restrict their performance or attendance at school. This includes, for example, delivering newspapers and advertisements. During term time, this light work cannot exceed three hours per day or a total of nine house per week. During school vacation, employment is permitted for up to half of the duration of the vacation, but a maximum of eight hours per day and thus 40 hours per week.
Lina can thus work as a babysitter during term time for up to nine hours per week, although this cannot be for more than three hours per day. During the five-week summer break, she can then babysit for two-and-a-half weeks, or a total of 100 hours. She cannot exceed 40 hours per week or eight hours per day.