Youth Criminal Offence Charges
If you are between the age of 12 and 17 and have been charged with a crime, your case will be handled under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). Although the list of offences is the same for youths as it is for adults, special rules apply to youths. The Youth Criminal Justice Act sets out numerous rules and guidelines in how courts should deal with young persons.
You have the right to a lawyer, even if you cannot afford one.
Because people under 18 have not fully matured and are more dependent on others for their well-being than adults are, they are entitled to special treatment at all stages of the criminal process, including:
- Getting bail;
- Ensuring they have a lawyer represent them at all important stages of their case;
- Receiving a fair trial;
- Ensuring that your name cannot be published at any stage during or after the case;
- Requiring the police to comply with special rules before taking a statement;
- Receiving a fair and just sentence that takes into account their reduced level of awareness and responsibility; and
- Limitations on how long their criminal record can be accessed.
We will review your case thoroughly and can identify any police misconduct you may have suffered during the investigation. We will ensure you get the full benefit of all your special rights at every stage of your case, from getting released from custody, to getting a fair trial, to ensuring any sentence you may receive is as minor as possible, and emphasizes your chances at becoming a good member of society.
Under the YCJA, the judge must ensure that your punishment accomplishes two goals:
- It holds you accountable for your actions;
- It encourages your rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.
There are a large array of potential sentencing options available to the judge, and it is very important that you have an experienced lawyer when the time comes to be sentenced. We will make every effort possible to ensure that the sentence is individually tailored to your personal circumstances, and is no stricter than what is absolutely necessary.
The maximum jail sentence you can receive as a Young Person is typically much lower than an adult would be subject to.
In serious violent cases, the Crown can ask the Judge to give you a sentence as high as that which an adult would receive; this is called an “Adult Sentence”. We can work for you to persuade a judge not to do this in appropriate cases.
Common sentences include anyone, or a combination of the below options:
- The Judge scolding you for what you did;
- An absolute discharge;
- A discharge on conditions;
- A fine not exceeding $1000;
- An order that you pay someone back if you damaged their property;
- An order that you perform personal services for anyone who was a victim of your crime;
- An order that you perform community service hours;
- An order that you not possess any weapons;
- An order of probation for a maximum of two years;
- An order that you enter into a treatment program (if you have addictions or mental health issues);
- A jail sentence that you are allowed to serve in the community;
- A jail sentence that will be delayed to see if you behave yourself for a certain period of time;
- A jail sentence.
Some of the benefits of being charged as a youth as opposed to an adult apply if you chose to accept responsibility for the offence. Specifically, you are more likely not to receive a criminal record, and you are more likely to receive a lesser sentence if convicted. It is quite common for youth matters to be diverted out of the criminal process into a program called extra-judicial sanctions. If you decide to go to court on your own and are not eligible for the program, effective legal representation could still result in you being accepted.
Procedurally, you should keep in mind that you must come to the first court appearance in person, and usually it is preferred if a responsible adult accompanies you there. Your lawyer will be able to make further appearances for you without you being present, but you must fill out a special form allowing this to happen.