If you’re aged between 12 and 17 and are charged with a crime in Calgary, your case will be handled differently to that of an adult accused of the same crime.

While the provisions contained in the Criminal Code of Canada and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act still apply to youths, the main legislation regarding sentencing for youth offences is the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). 

That’s not to say that you should take the charges any less seriously. They can still lead to harsh consequences that can hamper your future rights and freedoms.

However, the law recognizes that young people make errors and provides opportunities for offenders to rehabilitate and reintegrate into the community.

With an experienced youth offence lawyer like Cory Wilson to support and guide you, we can ensure that a mistake made when you are young does not severely affect your future.

Calgary Youth Offence Lawyers

What are youth offences? 

The list of offences for youths is no different from that for adults. The main difference is in how cases involving 12 to 17-year-olds are handled by the courts and how you are sentenced.

In most cases, the courts in Calgary consider youths not yet mature enough to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions and dependent on adults to guide them.

Your sentence will take into account the reduced level of awareness and responsibility that is assumed to be the case with people under the age of 18.

How are youth and adult criminal cases handled differently?

Different rules generally apply to most elements of the criminal process for youths, including obtaining bail and the right to privacy (your name may not be published at any stage of the criminal case – even if you are convicted).

The police must also comply with special rules before taking a statement from a youth accused of a crime.

Youths accused of criminal offences maintain the same constitutional rights as adults under the Charter. They have the same right to a lawyer to represent them at all stages of their case, even if they are unable to afford one.

Of course, they also have the same right to a fair trial as adult offenders.

If you are convicted as a youth, limitations will be placed on how long your criminal record can be accessed for background checks (for adults, a conviction usually remains on your record permanently in Canada).

What are the typical sentences for youth offences? 

The good news for many youth offenders is that if you are willing to demonstrate that you take responsibility for your actions and are prepared to become a good member of society, judges are generally predisposed to give you another chance.

They have the power to practice leniency when sentencing you, providing you give a good account of yourself in court with the aid of your lawyer.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act states that the judge must accomplish two goals with your punishment:

  1. Hold you accountable for your actions
  2. Encourage your rehabilitation and reintegration into the community

Providing it satisfies these two goals, the judge has a great deal of discretion with youth sentencing.

We can often help cases to be diverted out of the criminal justice process and alternative options applied.

Sentencing options for the judge for youth offenders may include any of the following:

  • A reprimand 
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • An order to perform community service
  • A probation order up to two years
  • A discharge with conditions placed on release
  • An absolute discharge (with no conditions)
  • An order to pay restitution to a victim if you damaged property or caused harm in another way
  • Restrictions on owning weapons
  • Mandatory entrance into a treatment program (if drugs, alcohol or mental health issues are a factor)
  • A jail sentence
  • A deferred jail sentence
  • A jail sentence that can be served in the community

“Extra-judicial sanctions” are often preferred to custodial sentences for young offenders.

In the vast majority of youth cases, if the judge deems a jail sentence necessary (such as with extremely violent crimes), it will not be served in an adult jail if the offender is under 18. Absent exceptional circumstances, the time will be served in a young offenders’ centre.

Many of the reduced sentencing measures described only apply if the offender takes responsibility for his or her actions. By committing to that, there is generally a better chance of avoiding a criminal record.  

How do you defend a youth criminal case?

Because of the additional responsibilities for law enforcement officers in handling cases involving youths, mistakes are frequently made.

Our legal team will examine all of the evidence to ensure that correct protocols were followed and Charter rights were upheld. Any evidence of police misconduct may be grounds for case dismissal.

After release from custody, we will begin working on the defence and liaise with the prosecution to reduce the potential consequences. 

Even if the accused is found guilty of a crime, our experience in defending youths in criminal cases means we understand the strategies required to minimize the penalties and reduce the effects on the long-term future.

When will my youth matter close? 

For adult offenders in Canada, a criminal conviction generally remains permanently on your criminal record.

With a youth crime, your record is generally sealed either three or five years after you have served your sentence. However, if you re-offend as an adult during this period, the record will remain.

Call us to arrange a confidential consultation

Although the potential consequences for youth offences in Calgary are generally not as serious as for adults, they still need to be taken very seriously.

To speak with Cory Wilson or arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with Wilson Criminal Defence, call 403-978-6052 or email us here.

Cory Wilson is a criminal defence lawyer based in Calgary. If you have been charged with a criminal offence or are a suspect in a criminal investigation, call today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Tel: 403-978-6052