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Youth offences

Focus of the Youth Criminal Justice Act

As a youth, you will be charged and sentenced pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). The YCJA is focused on rehabilitation instead of punishment. The YCJA places a great deal of focus on treatment and counselling, using prison as a final resort. However, if the crime is extremely serious, or the young offender has a previous criminal record, prison time may be imposed by the Court.

Youths are more vulnerable than adults, and at no time is this truer than when involved with the criminal justice system. For that reason, unlike adults, youths charged in Canada have an inalienable right to counsel. This right begins at the arrest and interview stage and continues until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.

As the YCJA imposes a unique set of rules for youths, you need a lawyer who is adept at dealing with the YCJA and arriving at a creative solution which will protect the young person’s rights and interests. Our lawyers are skilled in dealing with youth criminal matters. Their practice ensures that no stone is left unturned in ensuring the young person receives the best possible defence available to them.


How Old Do I Have to be to be Charged?

You must be at least 12 years old to be charged for a criminal act in Canada. If you are between the years of 12 and 17, and you commit a crime, you will be charged under the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).

Can I receive an adult sentence for my charges?

If you are above the age of 14, you could receive an adult sentence if you are found guilty of an offence in which an adult would receive a prison sentence of more than two years. These convictions are those such as: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, serious repeat violent offences or other serious crimes). These types of sentences are given out to a young person if it is determined that a youth sentence would not hold the young person accountable for their crime.

Will I be detained in jail until my trial is over?

Generally speaking, it is less common for a young person to be detained in custody when charged with a criminal offence. As a matter of course, provided the young person has supports in the community and a plan that will address the Court’s concerns, they should be granted bail.

Bail provisions under the YCJA are much different than under the adult criminal system. Youths are detained only when certain criteria have been met: The youth has to be charged with a serious crime (or have a history of charges or prior convictions), and one of the following three must exist:

      1. It is substantially likely that the youth will not appear in court is released;


      1. detention is for public protection, or


    1. there are exceptional circumstances that justify the detention of the youth.

The court must consider the possible conditions that a youth could be released on, and will only detain the youth if no conditions can address the court’s concerns.


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