In Canada, a young person can be held responsible for the criminal acts he or she starts at the age of 12. That does not mean he’ll go to jail! The justice system seeks, as much as possible, to avoid a trial.
A law that encourages social reintegration
The Youth Criminal Justice Act provides different rules from those that apply to adults. This law requires young offenders to answer for their actions. It also encourages the social reintegration of young people suspected of having committed an offense. It often allows them to avoid a lawsuit.
Several possibilities following a police intervention
What happens when a teenager is stopped by a police officer? There are several possibilities. The next step depends on the situation of the young person and the seriousness of the offense.
Whatever the situation, parents have a role to play with their child. To learn more, check out our articles Your teen and the police: what role can you play and accompany your child to court.
The police officer may deliver an extrajudicial measure to the young person
In some cases, the police officer may decide to do nothing or give a warning to the teenager. He may also decide to refer him to a community organization called Alternative Justice Organization (OJA). In this case, the OJA worker will try to contact the parents of this young person.
Whatever the measure, the police officer will inform the parents of what happened.
Extrajudicial measures prevent a trial. It is the police officer who decides at the time of the intervention if the young person can receive one. It records the event in a database, and this information remains accessible to all police forces for two years.
To learn more, read our article for teens: The measures given by the police.
The young person may receive an extrajudicial sanction.
The police officer may decide not to give an extrajudicial measure. In this case, the file will be sent to a criminal and penal prosecuting attorney. Also called the “crown attorney”, the prosecutor is the state’s attorney. It is he who prosecutes the accused in a criminal trial.
The prosecutor has the choice to:
- close the file (for lack of evidence, for example);
- lay charges against the young person
- transfer the file to a youth representative.
The youth delegate is a youth center worker. He decides whether the young person is eligible for the extrajudicial sanctions program. He also tries to meet the teenager’s parents.
An extrajudicial sanction allows the young person to repair his act while avoiding a trial. He has the opportunity to redeem himself:
- towards the victim (by participating in a mediation or writing a letter of apology, for example), or
- to the community (by doing community work, for example).
Training could also be offered to him to allow him to reflect on the scope of his actions.
To learn more, read our article for teens: Extrajudicial Sanctions: To Avoid Trial.
The young person may have to go to the youth court.
In some cases, the young person will have to appear before a judge to appear. He will receive a document from the police or by mail: a promise to appear, a subpoena or a summons. In general, his parents will also receive a copy.
This document specifies the date and time when the young person must go to court, as well as the charges against him.
Warning! If your child is in this situation, it is important for him / her to attend. You are strongly encouraged to accompany him.
Appearance is the first step in court. It is at this point that the accused pleads guilty or not guilty. If the young person pleads guilty, he will receive a sentence thereafter. If he pleads not guilty, there will be a trial.
Following the appearance, the young person may become eligible for the extrajudicial sanctions program and avoid a trial