Youth Offence Charges

Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyers

Youth Offence Lawyers in Calgary

When a minor is alleged to have committed a criminal offence, their charges will be dealt with in Youth Court under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) provisions. The YCJA applies to young persons between the ages of 12 and 17. Given the age limitations, a child under the age of 12 cannot be charged with a crime.

Individuals that are charged with a criminal offence and who are under the age of 18 will be prosecuted in a Youth Court. While some similarities exist between the adult and youth judicial systems, the landscape and penalties for a youth offence are very different. For young offenders who have been charged criminally, a variety of outcomes are not available to adults who face those same charges. Consequently, there is a need for a lawyer experienced in youth offence prosecutions.

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Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)

In Alberta, The YCJA’s primary objectives are to:

Accountability: Ensure that youths take responsibility for their actions, which is achieved through measures proportional to the crime’s seriousness and the youth’s degree of responsibility.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration: Focus on rehabilitating and reintegrating young offenders into society, acknowledging their greater amenability to change.

Fair and Proportional Treatment: Confirm that a youth’s right to due process is respected and they’re treated fairly and proportionately.

Diversion: Emphasize the use of extrajudicial measures (alternatives to formal court proceedings) for less severe offences, thereby acknowledging that not all youth misbehaviour needs to be addressed through the formal justice system.

Protection of the Public: Foster long-term protection of the public by addressing the circumstances underlying a youth’s offending behaviour.

The YCJA encourages involving families, victims, and communities in the youth justice process, aiming to address the root causes of offending behaviour and facilitating a supportive environment for the youth to reform.

Consideration for Young Offenders

While numerous similarities exist between the youth and adult criminal justice systems, the landscape is very different. For matters in Calgary and Edmonton, a specialized courtroom exists for youth criminal matters. This courtroom is staffed with a specialized prosecutorial branch focusing exclusively on youth files.

In the adult system, accused persons charged with indictable offences have the ability to select their mode of trial. This process is known as an election. As an adult, the accused can elect to be tried in Provincial Court, in the Court of Queen’s Bench by a Justice sitting alone, or in the Court of Queen’s Bench by a jury of his/her peers. Conversely, all Youth Court prosecutions will be conducted in Provincial Court before a Provincial Court Judge.

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How Our Youth Offence Lawyers Can Help

The prevailing goal of the YCJA is to focus on rehabilitation of the young person to ensure that the crimes are not replicated later in life. As rehabilitation is a primary focus, probation is routinely used as a sanction. When imposed, the presiding judge can craft a sentence which assists the young person going forward. This may involve prohibiting them from contacting negative peers, requiring that they complete counselling for anger management or substance abuse, and even issuing an apology to the wronged party.

Unlike its adult counterpart, imposition a custodial sentence is a rarity, even for some of the more severe criminal code offences. Youth Court attempts to address the developmental challenges and the needs of young persons to guide them into adulthood effectively. Young persons charged with a criminal offence need a trusted advisor’s support, patience, and guidance. It is a complex and frightening time in the young person’s life, and without the proper counsel, the impact of a conviction can be devastating for both the youth and the family.

At Batting, Wyman Barristers, our lawyers will provide expert and empathetic counsel to youths charged with a criminal offence. Understanding the nuances of youth crime cases, we are here to provide the best legal advice and representation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • When a young person is charged with a criminal offence, they are often served with an appearance notice. This document specifies the first court appearance. In the adult system, an accused person can retain counsel who will appear on their behalf for non-substantive court appearances. That said, youth matters require the personal attendance of an accused for the first appearance even when they have retained a lawyer to represent them. The lawyer will routinely have the client sign a document known as a Designation of Counsel that is then filed with the court. This document allows the lawyer to attend on the client’s behalf going forward. If the matter is scheduled for trial or a guilty plea, the young person must attend these substantive hearings.
  • When an adult is convicted of an offence, the conviction is registered on their criminal record. This entry is indefinite unless the individual applies for and receives a criminal record suspension (formerly a pardon). Should a young person be convicted of an offence, the conviction is registered on their youth record. The access period for a youth record refers to the time frame that the record is still open. Once the access period has concluded, the record is sealed and destroyed. That said, should an individual over the age of 18 commit a further offence with an open youth record, the youth convictions will become part of that person’s adult record. The access period differs depending upon the type of youth court conviction. Summary conviction matters have an access period of 3 years whereas indictable offences carry an access period of 5 years.
  • When a young person is convicted of a criminal offence, the presiding judge is given the responsibility of determining the appropriate sentence. The YCJA has unique sentencing provisions that differ from those contained in the Criminal Code. The YCJA defines the purposes of youth sentences as follows: to hold young people accountable by imposing sanctions that have meaningful consequences and promote rehabilitation and reintegration into society, thereby contributing to the long-term protection of the public. Sentences must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The YCJA provides for a variety of sentencing options which include probation, community-based sentences as well as custodial dispositions.
  • The YCJA contains provisions which allow less serious offences to be diverted from court proceedings. The Extrajudicial Sanctions Program (EJS) is the program utilized in the province of Alberta. To be eligible to participate in this program, Crown Counsel must provide a referral. In deciding whether the matter will be diverted, the Crown will consider the seriousness of the offence as well as criminal record of the young person. EJS will typically be available when it is the young person’s first dealings with the criminal justice system and the offence is non-violent. When accepted into EJS, the criminal proceedings are adjourned for the client to meet with a probation officer. At this meeting, an EJS agreement will be conceived setting forth the requirements upon the young person. These can include an apology to the victim, completion of an essay or research project, or even community service work. When the conditions have been satisfied, the matter returns to court for the charges to be withdrawn.
  • Youth are subject to the same charges as adults under the Canadian Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. However, when it comes to sentencing, they are guided by the distinct principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).

    While young individuals share the constitutional rights granted to adults by the Charter, the YCJA provides additional protections for them. In the judicial process, the focus for youth is primarily on their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

  • Your case could be settled through a trial, a plea of guilt, or potential withdrawal.
    For instance, you might qualify for Extra Judicial Measures if you face a minor charge. By fulfilling certain conditions, your charges can be dropped.

    Likewise, if a mental disorder influenced your actions leading to the charge, you could be suitable for Mental Health Diversion (MHD). After meeting the conditions of MHD, your charges will be withdrawn.

    Both Extra Judicial Measures and MHD necessitate the approval of the Crown Prosecutor.

  • Youth crime offences can be resolved in various ways, from simple reprimands to adult-level sentencing. Typically, a young offender is involved in creating reports that provide insights into their personal situation and shed light on the context of the offence. The nature and duration of the sentence often hinge on the information presented in these reports.