In Ontario and throughout Canada, youths are held to the same standards are adults when it comes to obeying the law. The YCJA (Youth Criminal Justice Act) outlines the procedures and processes of youths who have been charged with criminal offences. A youth is defined as anyone who is at least 12 years old and less than 18 years old.
The YCJA outlines the processes police must follow when detaining, arresting, charging, and questioning a youth. Furthermore, the YCJA covers the rights of youths, as well as their trial process, sentencing guidelines, and handling of youth criminal records.
Oftentimes, the police will use their discretion to determine whether to arrest and charge a youth with a criminal offence. For instance, if the offence is less serious and the youth does not have any prior offences, then the police may decide to issue a warning to the youth and inform their parents without any formal charges.
What Happens If the Police Lay Charges?
If the police decide to charge a youth for a criminal offence, they must give notice to the parents or legal guardian of the youth as soon as possible after the youth is detained. They cannot question the youth until a parent, legal guardian, or criminal defence lawyer is present. The police may also notify Child and Family Services after arresting and charging a youth.
Any youth charged with a criminal offence has the right to legal counsel. The police must inform a youth of this right, as well as their right to remain silent upon arrest. Police cannot use a youth’s lack of understanding of their legal rights against them to solicit a confession or force them to answer questions.
Youths do not have to answer any questions and have the right to consult with their lawyer or parents before deciding if they want to answer questions or make a statement to the police.
The police can decide to release a youth on recognizance without a formal bail hearing. The youth is typically released to their parents or legal guardian. The parents or legal guardian normally must agree that they will ensure the youth attend future court dates and adhere to the conditions of their release.
If the police decide to not release the youth, they are detained in a remand or juvenile detention facility until their bail hearing. During the hearing, the justice or judge determines if the youth should be released unless their criminal defence lawyer has negotiated the terms of their release with the Crown prosecutor prior to the bail hearing.
The parents or legal guardian will typically serve as surety for the youth to ensure they adhere to the terms of their release and appear at all future court dates until their legal matter is resolved.