When Youth Are Charged
As a parent of a young person charged with an offence, or as a youth who has been charged, you are probably facing the criminal justice system with a great deal of uncertainty and possible fear. For most of our clients, a youth offence is their first contact with the criminal justice system.
You may have a number of questions, including:
- Can I get off this charge?
- What will happen if I'm found guilty?
- Will I be treated as an adult?
- What should I do next?
The most important thing to understand is this: the criminal justice system treats youth very differently from adults.
What this means for you will depend on the details of your case.
The youth criminal system uses a special set of rules for procedure and sentencing for juvenile charges, acknowledging that minors have different life circumstances than adults, different motivations for committing crimes and different needs, whether they are found guilty or not.
At Bernstein Law Group, we can help you understand your rights and take advantage of the consideration given to minors charged with crimes.
The Youth System
We will discuss a number of factors when you come in to see us, including:
- The role of the parents: For many of our clients, the parents are crucial to every step of the process. The Crown (and judges) will want to know what kind of support the youth has at home and what kind of supervision the parents will provide during the process and afterwards.
- Understanding the situation and your rights: Youths may not always fully appreciate the consequences of their actions, or even that some actions, such as shoplifting, bullying, fighting or vandalism are against the law. As your lawyers it is our job to make sure that you understand what you are facing, so that you can make the right decisions about your future.
- Opportunities: There may be a number of possible ways to avoid incarceration. There may be community service, counselling, drug treatment or restitution, and your charges may be withdrawn once you complete the alternate form of consequences. Incarceration is often seen as a last resort, and even then, the system is supposed to focus on rehabilitation and education more than punishment.