BEING CHARGED AS A YOUTH VERSUS AS AN ADULT
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (“YCJA”) is a piece of government legislation that applies directly to youth between the ages of 12 and 17. The focus of the YCJA is very different from the Criminal Code of Canada. The focus of the YCJA is rehabilitation and reintegration of the young individual back into society. The Criminal Code, on the other hand, is more focused on denunciation and deterrence. There are many differences between a youth matter and an adult matter, both procedurally and substantively.
HOW ARE YOUTH TREATED DIFFERENTLY THAN ADULTS?
Generally speaking, youth are a vulnerable sector. As a result, above and beyond basic Charter Rights, a young person is afforded greater protection. For instance, a young person has the right to have his or her parents present during interrogation, or have the presence of their lawyer. A judge will generally use incarceration as a last resort, as the focus is on enhancing the youth’s sense of responsibility and accountability.
WHY ARE YOUTH TREATED DIFFERENTLY THAN ADULTS?
As people under 18 years of age tend to lack the maturity of adults, the youth system has alternatives to the Criminal Code in order to steer youth away from trouble with the law. This idea forms the basis of various aspects of the youth system. For example, a significant concept in the youth system is accountability. A primary goal of the youth system is to raise youth awareness of accountability and encourage rehabilitation at an early age.
Likewise, timely intervention is emphasized in the youth system in order to support youth in trouble with the law to get on track as quickly as possible. In general, punishment and sanctions for young people are better dealt with through rehabilitative methods, such as a judicial reprimand, where a judge gives stern and constructive criticism to the youth in open court. In this view, custodial sentences (or jail) should only be used with youth when absolutely necessary and for crimes involving violence or very serious offences.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
The system will generally approach a youth criminal matter by imposing a sentence that forces the youth to take into consideration their actions. While addressing rehabilitative concerns, the youth system often works with the family of the youth and their community in order to respond to the needs of the young person and provide the appropriate tools to put their life in adequate order.
Despite efforts to highlight that youths have certain rights and protections, various challenges persist and youth may find themselves in precarious positions with the police and within the court system.
The lawyers at Bernstein Law Group have over thirty-five years of experience working on a myriad of youth cases. We understand that youth matters often have a delicacy that needs to be dealt with appropriately. In youth matters especially, it is often important to get proper legal representation at the early stages, in order to avoid harmful consequences.
If you are a youth who has been charged with a crime, or if someone you love is a youth who has been charged, you can contact our office and enhance the protection of your rights immediately. We offer free consultations for both young people and adults, because we believe every person deserves an opportunity to exercise their right to counsel of their choice.
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