Youth Charges



Defending youth against criminal charges requires an understanding of a very specialized area of law. The Criminal Code of Canada still governs youth so far as defining criminal behaviour, but as far as procedure goes, youth fall under an entirely different ruleset pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, or “YCJA.”

A criminal lawyer who aims to successfully defend youth in Ontario must have a full understanding not only of the Criminal Code but also of the YCJA. The YCJA’s main goal is ensuring that young persons charged with a crime understand both the nature and the consequences of their actions, and thus the focus of the YCJA is on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Serious crimes can still result in jail sentences under the YCJA, but there are many offences which would result in custody for a convicted adult but result in a lesser punishment like probation for youth.

That doesn’t mean, however, that defending against youth court charges is a matter less serious or important than defending an adult. A conviction on a young person’s record can attach a terrible stigma of criminalization that can follow them into their adulthood. Many people believe that once a young person turns 18, their youth court records are automatically sealed and inaccessible thereafter by authorities. This is not true. There is a statutory period afterward provided by the YCJA during which the records can still be accessed. If the young person gains a further criminal conviction during this period, their records will either never seal (should they have already turned 18 at the time of their new conviction) or will be further delayed in being sealed (if they are still not yet 18).

If you have a child charged with a criminal offence, the first thing you should do is consult with a skilled youth court lawyer in Toronto like Graham Zoppi. Mr. Zoppi will put all his experience to work in helping you and your child through the process, minimizing the amount of school your child will miss as the court proceedings continue and fighting to keep your child from starting his or her life weighed down by the burden of a criminal record.