If the police bring the case to the public prosecutor, it is also authorized to issue a punishment order to the defendant instead of summoning him and bringing the case to court. this punishment order will gradually replace the consensual settlement penalty/transaction offered in the past by the public prosecutor to the defendant. The purpose of this is to reduce the number of offences that remain without punishment.
A different procedure is issued if the case is classified as crime. The Dutch definition of crime includes violent crimes, like serious offences against life and serious offences against property. This category also includes some traffic offences, like drunk-driving, hit and run, and drug crimes. In these crimes, the public prosecutor can propose a settlement as well as issue a punishment order. If the accused refuses to accept it or he does not agree with the punishment order, the case goes to the court.
The courts of first instance consist of one judge for less severe offences (which has the authority to impose custodial sentences up to one year) and of three judges for more serious cases. Most of the time, the trials are carried out with no interrogation of witnesses and the judges base their decision primarily on the written dossiers prepared by the police during the investigation phase.
In case of conviction, sanctions imposed range from fines and community service to imprisonment. All can be set conditionally as well as unconditionally. Sanctions can be punishments, which must be proportionate, or measures (such as medical treatment), which serve a more rehabilitative goal and do not need to be proportionate. Determinate custodial sentence varies between one day and 20 years. Sentence length depends on the severity of the offence, whether the offender is a recidivist, and specific circumstances of the other case. Finally, life imprisonment is seldom imposed, although the use of this penalty has increased in recent years.
Another aspect of Dutch criminal justice that has shown a recent increase is that of stricter disciplinary sanctions for juvenile offenders. In the Dutch criminal justice system, children below the age of 12 cannot be subjected to criminal prosecution. Children in the 12–17 age group can be charged, prosecuted and convicted for committing offences, but the juvenile criminal law applies to them. Juvenile criminal law is customized to take into account the level of development of children, and is different from criminal law for adults in terms of formal procedures and the types and length of sentences (van de Riet, et. al, 2007). The police in the Netherlands have traditionally been characterized by restraint when dealing with cases involving minors. This policy has been characterized as one of minimal intervention, which basically means that not every offence is officially registered or prosecuted, not every case is brought to trial, and a conviction does not always result in the highest possible sanction (van...