To be charged with a crime in Canada a person must be at least 12 years of age. Between the ages of 12 and 18 youth prosecutions are governed by the Federal Youth Criminal Justice Act.  This Act incorporates many provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada but is the paramount legal authority for dealing with youthful offenders.

If you are a youth charged with a crime you are constitutionally entitled to a state paid lawyer regardless of your (or your family’s) ability to pay. In Alberta, that means you can seek free assistance from the Legal Aid Society. In Edmonton and Calgary that typically means a public defender will be appointed as you have no right to choose your lawyer from Legal Aid. In other communities, Legal Aid will appoint private lawyers to assist you, and you may be given some say in that selection process. Obviously, if you or your family wish to hire a lawyer privately you may choose whichever lawyer you wish.

The focus of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, unlike the Criminal Code, is the rehabilitation of the young person, not punishment. Accordingly, the emphasis is on treatment/counseling with jail as a last resort, except where the crimes are very serious or the offender has a serious criminal record.

Being convicted as a young offender can bring long terms consequences so be sure to get experienced proper advice at every stage of the proceedings. Contact the team at DDSG Criminal Law to learn more.