If you are a young person who has been accused of a crime, you should speak with a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Legal Aid may issue you a certificate to pay the cost of retaining counsel. A criminal defence lawyer can help to protect your rights.
Canadian criminal law deals with people differently when they are young. The logic being that children typically do not have the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions. Conversely, teenagers are more likely to understand their actions, but their brains are not fully developed, and puberty can occasionally cause poor decision making, so they too are dealt with less severely than adults. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) and the Criminal Code (CC) are the pieces of legislation that deal with youthful offenders.
Under The Age Of 12
In Canada you must be at least 12 years old to be convicted of a crime. In other countries there are younger ages for criminal responsibility, such as Australia and New Zealand, where the age is 10. There are also some countries like Italy and Japan where the minimum age is older at 14.
Despite being impossible to convict, there may still be some state intervention for a very violent child, such as Children’s Aid Society involvement, or mental health treatment.
12 And 13 Years Old
12 and 13 year old children can be charged with crimes in Canada. However, unlike older adolescents, they must be tried and sentenced as youths, in a youth court and there is no possibility of an adult sentence. Youth sentences are typically much shorter and less harsh than adult sentences
14-17 Years Old
Teenagers aged 14-17 are tried and sentenced as youth unless they have committed a very serious crime. If a youth has committed a very serious crime, the Crown can seek to have the youth sentenced as an adult. In order to argue that the youth should be sentenced as an adult, the crime must be one that is punishable by at least two years imprisonment on indictment. The court will not always agree to sentence the youth as an adult and this option is often reserved for very violent crimes.
Over The Age Of 18
Offenders that are 18 years of age or older are tried and sentenced as adults. However, upon sentencing the court considers all of the “aggravating” and “mitigating” circumstances of the accused and the crime to impose a fair sentence. An example of an aggravating circumstance: an assault, where the victim was a disabled person. An example of a mitigating circumstance: a theft, where the item stolen was baby formula for your child. As such, occasionally the court will consider the age of the offender as a circumstance relevant to sentence. For example, a “youthful” offender may get a more lenient sentence in an assault charge stemming from a bar fight, whereas a youthful offender who assaulted a senior to rob them may receive a harsher sentence.
If you have been charged with any crime the best way to protect yourself is to hire a criminal defence lawyer. Mehdi Au LLP has criminal lawyers on staff available to work with you on your case.
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