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Youth Court - Frequent Questions

Q. I am under 12 years of age. Can I be arrested?

A. Youth under 12 are not arrested and will not go to court. If they commit a crime, they are dealt with more effectively by child and youth services or a mental health agency if parents cannot deal with the problems.

Q. Can I call a lawyer when I get to the police station?

A. Yes, you have the right to a lawyer and should call one. The police will let you try calling until you get one.

Q. I have been charged with a crime, do I need a lawyer?

A. Yes, a young person who has been charged with a crime needs advice from a lawyer who is an expert in criminal law or better yet, youth criminal law. If you cannot afford lawyer, a Legal Aid Lawyer from the Youth Defence Office in your area might help you. Look in the telephone book or refer to the Yellow Pages Online Directory under “Lawyers”.

  • Call Lawyer Referral Services
  • OR ask an adult to find a lawyer for you.

Q. Do parents/guardians have rights in Youth Justice Court?

A. Yes, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act parents/guardians have the right to be notified when their son/daughter has been:

  • Dealt with by extrajudicial sanctions
  • Arrested
  • Given a summons, appearance notice or promise to appear
  • Given a ticket, other than a parking ticket (more information on youth tickets can be found under the Tickets Help-Centre)
  • The subject of a pre-sentence report
  • The subject of a medical or psychological report
  • Sentenced
  • Given a Prohibition order

Q. I am under 12 years of age. Can I be arrested?

A. Youth under 12 are not arrested and will not go to court. If they commit a crime, they are dealt with more effectively by child and youth services or a mental health agency if parents cannot deal with the problems.

Q. Can I call a lawyer when I get to the police station?

A. Yes, you have the right to a lawyer and should call one. The police will let you try calling until you get one.

Q. I have been charged with a crime, do I need a lawyer?

A. Yes, a young person who has been charged with a crime needs advice from a lawyer who is an expert in criminal law or better yet, youth criminal law. If you cannot afford lawyer, a Legal Aid Lawyer from the Youth Defence Office in your area might help you. Look in the telephone book or refer to the Yellow Pages Online Directory under “Lawyers”.
  • Call Lawyer Referral Services
  • OR ask an adult to find a lawyer for you.

Q. Do parents/guardians have rights in Youth Justice Court?

A. Yes, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act parents/guardians have the right to be notified when their son/daughter has been:
  • Dealt with by extrajudicial sanctions
  • Arrested
  • Given a summons, appearance notice or promise to appear
  • Given a ticket, other than a parking ticket (more information on youth tickets can be found under the Tickets Help-Centre)
  • The subject of a pre-sentence report
  • The subject of a medical or psychological report
  • Sentenced
  • Given a Prohibition order

Q. The police called me and said that my child was arrested. What do I do?

A. The police has a duty to let you know if your child is arrested, charged with a crime and/or that you must go to court. If the young person has been arrested and has not been released most likely you will have to attend at the Hearing or Bail Office where a Bail Hearing or a Judicial Interim Release Hearing (getting out on bail) will be held.

Q. As a parent, what can I expect from a lawyer?

A. The lawyer will work for you and for the young person whether you are paying or are using a lawyer appointed by the court from the Youth Legal Offenders Office. The lawyer will speak to the young person and make decisions with you. You can ask the lawyer questions to see how the case is going, but the lawyer will not reveal any information to you unless the young person says the lawyer can.

Q. As a parent, can I speak in Youth Justice Court?

A. Yes, a parent(s) or a guardian (s) has the right to be heard in the youth justice system at a bail hearing and before the young person receives a sentence. Usually, parents are encouraged to support the young person while they are involved in the system and after they receive a sentence.

Q. Will my child have to go to court?

A. Yes, if the young person has been arrested, and the police laid a charge, you must go to court at least once. After that, there may be ways to deal with the case without going to court, depending on the situation.

Q. Do I have to go to court with my child, I cannot miss work.

A. It is a good idea to be informed and involved with your sons/daughters case. You should go to the police station and to court with your child, if possible. Sometimes a judge may make an order that a parent or guardian attend court with the young person, which means that you must attend.

Q. Will my child get the same sentence as an adult would?

A. The law is less harsh for young people who are charged with crimes than for adults. But for the most serious crimes, repeat or danger offenders, young persons may get the same punishment as adults.

Q. Will my child go to jail?

A. If the court decides to punish the young person, the punishment may not have to be jail depending on charges and circumstances.

Q. What if I am asked to pay the costs of what my child did?

A. If the young person is under the age of 18 when they damage, destroy, or steal what belongs to someone else, the owner may try to make you pay back the cost. You do not have to pay unless a court orders you to do so. If you are told that you have to pay you should get legal advice. If the owner starts a court case against you, it will be in a civil court, not a criminal court. You have a limited amount of time to defend yourself or the court can order you to pay the money. You should get legal advice about your own situation.

Q. Can the police take a picture of me?

A. Yes, if you are arrested the police can take a picture of you.

Q. Can the police take my fingerprints?

A. Yes, if you are arrested the police can fingerprint you.

Q. Can the police search me?

A. Yes, if you are arrested the police can search you.

BUT

If you are not arrested, the police can still search you for the following reasons only:

  • If you are under 18 years of age and the police believes that you have liquor in your possession.
  • If the police has a valid search warrant.
  • If you agreed to be searched.

Q. Can a security guard tell me and my friends to leave a building or a school?

A. Yes, security guards protect private property and if you and your friends are causing a disturbance they can ask you to leave without telling you why.

Q. Can a security guard tell me not to go into a building, mall or school?

A. Yes, security guards can ban you from entering a building, mall or school. If you return to the property before the ban is up you are committing an offence. The security guard can call the police. As a result, you can be arrested, charged, convicted and fined.

Q. Can a security guard arrest me?

A. Yes, a security guard can arrest you if they believe that you have committed a crime. They can arrest you if:

  • If you are committing a serious violent offence like robbery or physical assault.
  • If you are running away from the police.
  • If you are committing an offence on a private property.

Q. What are Extra Judicial Measures?

A. Extra Judicial Measures is an alternative route of dealing with young persons instead of going to court and having a judge decide the consequences for the offence at the pre-charge and post-charge stage.

Q. What will happen if I do not follow the rules/sanctions set by the crown and/or the police?

A. If you fail to comply with the terms and conditions of the rules/sanctions, a charge(s) might be laid and the case may proceed through the normal court process.

Q. What is a conference?

A. The purpose of a conference may be to give advice to a youth court judge, the provincial director, a crown prosecutor or a youth worker about release conditions, sentencing and reintegration plans

Q. I do not understand English, what do I do?

A. A young person has the right to an interpreter if he/she does not understand or speak the language that the trial is being conducted in, or if he/she is hearing impaired. The young person might ask the court to appoint an interpreter for help him/her in court and to interpret the sentence.

Q. Which court do I go to?

A. You will go to the Youth Justice Court. This court deals with people between the ages of 12 and 17. Young persons appear in a separate system from that of adults. Young persons are held accountable for their crimes and rehabilitated at the same time.

Q. Who is who in the courtroom?

Q. What happens when I go to Youth Justice Court?

A. At the first court appearance, the clerk/judge will read the charge(s) against the young person to make sure that he/she understands them. The young person will be asked to plead guilty, not guilty or reserves their plea. If he / she reserve the plea, the judge will grant an adjournment to give the young person time to talk to a lawyer. If he/she pleads guilty the judge might proceed to sentencing, if he/she pleads not guilty, the judge will set a date for trial.

Q. I have been charged, can I still keep going to school?

A. Yes, you still have the right to go to school even if you were involved in a criminal matter. Sometimes the court will impose terms on the young person release and order that the young person cannot go to a specific school until the case is over. If that happens the young person can usually attend another school.

Q. What happens at the trial?

A. At the trial the Crown Attorney will present all evidence and witnesses to the court first. The Defence Attorney will present all evidence and witnesses second on behalf of the young person. After each witness has told his/her story the Crown Attorney and the Defence Attorney can cross-examine each other witness (s). Cross -examination is a way of testing how clear the witness’s memory is and the truth of what he/she just said in his/her testimony. Once both sides finish presenting their evidence, both attorneys make statements and sum up their arguments. The judge will then make a decision about finding the young person guilty or not guilty. If the young person is found guilty the judge will impose a sentence

Q. Will my name and picture be in the paper?

A. No, the media is prohibited to release your name and picture(s) unless the police believes that you are dangerous and releasing your name would help them find you. A judge must grant a special order for that to happen. If you are given an adult sentence your name and/or picture(s) can be put in the newspaper, radio, television and internet.

Q. What happens if I do not go to court?

A. If you do not show up for court, you are breaking the law and a Warrant might be issued for your arrest, and you may also be charged with another offence.

Q. What type of sentence will I get in Youth Justice Court?

A. Every case is different and different sentences can be given depending on the circumstances. Some of the various sentencing options include:

Q. I am 17 years old and have committed a second offence. Will I be sent to adult court?

A. No, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, you will not go to an adult court. If the offence you committed warrants an adult sentence, your sentence will be imposed after a youth trial in youth court by a youth court judge.

Q. If I go to jail, will I be put in the same jail as adults?

A. Usually a young person under the age of 18 who receives a custodial sentence will be placed in a youth facility, separate and apart from adults.

Q. I am looking for a job, what if the employer asks if I have a criminal record.

A. A Youth Justice Court record is not a criminal record. You will only have a criminal record if you commit and are convicted of an offence after you turn 18 or if you get an adult sentence for a crime that you committed as a youth.

Q. Can an employer see my youth record?

A. A Youth Justice Court record contains documents that keep track of court hearings, court reports, charges and sentences. Only certain people specified in the Youth Criminal Justice Act have the right to see youth justice court records.

Q. What will happen to my youth record when I turn 18?

A. Youth records are not automatically destroyed when you turn 18. If you are found guilty of a summary conviction offence, your records will be kept for a period of at least 3 years after the completion of your sentence. If you are found guilty of an indictable offence, your records will be kept for a period of at least 5 years after the completion of your sentence. If you commit another crime before your youth record is closed, your record for the first crime will last longer.

Q. I committed another crime after I turned 18. Now I am 21 years old, do I still have a youth record?

A. If you committed another crime after you turned 18, but while your youth record was still open, your youth record will became part of your permanent adult record. At this point, access to the youth record is no longer restricted.

Q. After I serve the sentence, will I still have a youth record?

A. A young person has the right to ensure that his/her youth record is closed after the time allotted for his/her offence; if you are found guilty of a summary conviction offence, your record will last at least 3 years after you finish your sentence. If you are found guilty of an indictable offence, your record will last at least 5 years after you have finished your sentence, unless you commit another offence while your record is open.

Q. How do I know if my record is destroyed or closed?

A. You can go to the local police station with a photo ID and ask them to check the R.C.M.P. files to make sure your record does not exist. If it does still exists, ask your local police to contact the R.C.M.P. to have the record destroyed.

Q. I have a youth record. Can I travel?

A. If you have a youth record, you can still travel within Canada; however, it may stop you from travelling to other countries to visit family and friends or going on holidays. In Canada your youth record must be closed after a certain period of time, but if another country gets information on a youth record, it can keep it in its files forever. There is no law stating that they do not have the right to do this. You may want to talk to a lawyer before travelling to another country.

Q. If I have a youth record, can I go to the United States?

A. The United States have strict rules about letting people into the country with a record. For example, if you have a record for a drug offence, and the United States knows about it, it is unlikely that you will be allowed into the country. If the United States gets information on your record, they can keep it in their file and can use against you even if your record in Canada has been destroyed. You may want to talk to a lawyer before traveling to another country you may need an entry waiver.

Q. I am a victim of a break and enter. Do I get to say how the crime affected me and my family?

A. As a victim you have an opportunity to say how you were affected to the judge and to participate in some extra judicial sanctions.

Please note: the information provided in this text is of a general nature and does not constitute legal advice. For specific information please consult with a lawyer in your area.