Criminal sanctions

Punishments are the essence of the criminal sanctions system. The general punishments are fixed fine, fine, conditional imprisonment, community service, monitoring sentence and unconditional imprisonment. A special punishment for offences committed by persons under the age of 18 is the juvenile penalty. Special punishments for public officials are warning and dismissal from office. Disciplinary punishments may be imposed on soldiers and corporate fines on legal persons.  A court may also decide to waive punishment.

Forfeiture and administrative sanctions may also be imposed for acts that are punishable under the law.  Forfeiture means, for example, that the proceeds of crime are ordered forfeit to the state. Tax penalties are an example of administrative sanctions


Unconditional imprisonment. A sentence of imprisonment is imposed for a fixed term or for life. The length of a fixed-term sentence of imprisonment is determined in accordance with the penal latitude provided for the offence. A fixed-term sentence of imprisonment is imposed for at least fourteen days and at most twelve years. When a person is sentenced to a joint punishment of imprisonment for two or more offences at the same time, the maximum length is 15 years.  A sentence of life imprisonment may be imposed only for certain most aggravated offences.

Conditional release. A person serving a fixed-term sentence of imprisonment is conditionally released when he or she has served a specified proportion of the sentence. Conditional release refers to the release of a prisoner serving an unconditional sentence of imprisonment or a monitoring sentence to serve the rest of the sentence in freedom, either under supervision or without supervision. A probationary period, which is equivalent to the length of the sentence remaining at the time of release, begins when a sentenced person is conditionally released. However, the maximum length of the probationary period is three years.

Probationary liberty under supervision.  At most six months before the regular conditional release, a prisoner may be placed outside prison in probationary liberty under supervision, if the conditions for placement in probationary liberty are met.  The purpose of probationary liberty is to promote the sentenced person's social adjustment by means of a gradual and well-planned release.

Conditional imprisonment. A sentence of imprisonment not exceeding two years may be imposed conditionally with a probationary period of a minimum of one and a maximum of three years. If conditional imprisonment alone is deemed insufficient punishment for the offence, an ancillary fine may be imposed or, if the length of the sentence of conditional imprisonment is eight months or more, an ancillary community service order for at least 14 and at most 90 hours may be imposed.  A person who has committed an offence when under 21 years of age may be subjected to supervision in order to reinforce conditional imprisonment, if this is deemed justified in order to promote the social adaptation of the young offender or to prevent further offences.

If the sentenced person during the probationary period commits an offence for which he or she is sentenced to unconditional imprisonment, the sentence of conditional imprisonment may be ordered to be enforced either in full or in part.

Juvenile penalty.  A juvenile penalty may be imposed for an offence committed at the age of 15-17, if a fine is considered an insufficient punishment and unconditional imprisonment is deemed too severe a punishment. The length of the juvenile penalty is from four months to one year. The juvenile penalty consists of supervision, different activities and programmes promoting the young offender’s social functioning ability, as well as induction to working life and work.

Community service.  Community service is a community sanction which comprises unpaid work carried out on the sentenced person’s free time under the supervision of the Criminal Sanctions Agency or, alternatively, activities or outpatient care that aim to reduce recidivism or substance abuse problems. The extent of community service is 14-240 hours. If the sentenced person grossly violates the obligations set for him or her, a court may convert the remaining part of the community service into monitoring sentence or unconditional imprisonment.

Monitoring sentence. The monitoring sentence is a punishment enforced in liberty. A person serving the sentence is monitored by technical and other means.  A monitoring sentence may be imposed instead of certain short sentences of unconditional imprisonment, and the maximum length of the sentence is six months. One of the conditions for imposing a monitoring sentence is that it is deemed to be justified for the maintenance or promotion of the social adaptation of the offender and that the offender is assumed to be able to comply with the obligations included in the monitoring sentence (i.e. to remain in one’s household and participate in the activities that the offender has been ordered to carry out).

Fine is a pecuniary penalty. The total amount of a fine is determined on the basis of two factors: the degree of reprehensibility of the criminal act and the financial standing of the person being fined. If a fine cannot be recovered from the offender, the unpaid fine may be converted into imprisonment under certain conditions laid down in the Criminal Code.

Fixed fine is a pecuniary penalty of a fixed amount in euros which is less severe than a fine and which is established by the Act on violations giving rise to fixed fines as the only punishment for certain violations. An unpaid fixed fine cannot be converted into imprisonment.

Related links

Read more about the different sanctions on the website of the Criminal Sanctions Agency:


Community sanctions