Youth Criminal Defence Lawyer in Toronto
When a young person commits a criminal offence, in most cases, it’s usually due to poor judgement, peer pressure, family issues, and other underlying matters that can be tackled. Given that young offenders have a whole life ahead of them, and most can easily reform from their criminal behaviour than adults, the Canadian justice system gives them a chance to do so by handling their cases differently.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act
In Canada, youth facing criminal charges are prosecuted under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). The YCJA provides laws that govern youth criminal procedures, including how young offenders (persons between the ages of 12 to 18) are investigated, prosecuted, and sentenced by the Court if and when convicted of an offence.
The YCJA recognizes special rights and privileges for young offenders, which are not available for their adult counterparts. The police and the Crown Attorneys adhere to these special rights from the beginning of your case.
The YCJA’s special considerations and leniency revolve around the diminished moral culpability of youth. The Act is designed to focus more on rehabilitation and reintegration of young offenders back into society rather than incarceration. It strives to prevent them from being sucked into the cycle of criminal activity by correcting their behaviour before they reach adulthood.
Keep in mind that the Youth Criminal Justice Act still promotes accountability for having committed a crime. Therefore, its leniency and privileges have limits, and young offenders can end up in jail if found guilty of perpetrating certain crimes.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act is vast and complex and requires an experienced youth criminal defence lawyer to navigate and use it to defend an accused person. The lawyer should also have in-depth knowledge of the Criminal Code. Zamani Law has a team of expert lawyers who are well-versed in the youth criminal justice system. Therefore, if your child has been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, contact us for exceptional legal representation.
The Youth Criminal Justice Principles
Section 3 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act contains a Declaration of Principles, which details the purposes and principles of the Act. The principles set out in the YCJA are vital as they’re used to interpret the entire Act and provide guidance on how the youth justice system should apply its laws to youth.
Here is a summary of some of the YCJA’s principles:
- Rehabilitation and reintegration into society
- Addressing the developmental challenges of youths
- Identifying and addressing the underlying causes of youth crimes
- Making public the information on youth crime, youth justice, and effectiveness of measures taken to address youth crime
- Recognizing and guaranteeing youth protection of their rights and freedoms as provided by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Fair and proportionate accountability with meaningful consequences as per the offence committed.
- Reinforcing respect for societal values
- Increased procedural protection
- Encourage repair of harm done to victims and the community
- Inform parents on the measures and proceedings involving their children and encourage them to help address the criminal behaviour
- Swift intervention to reinforce the link between the offending behaviour and the punishment
The above are some of the principles that the Court must adhere to when making any decision on a youth offence.
For more information about the principles of the YCJA, click here.
Special Considerations in Youth Cases
The Youth Criminal Justice Act provides special considerations for young persons charged with criminal offences. Some of the considerations include:
1. Parent Notification
If a young person is being charged with a criminal offence, the police must notify their parent or guardian before the case can proceed in Youth Court. Parents play a significant role in their son’s or daughter’s cases.
2. Youth Statements
The police are restricted by the Youth Criminal Justice Act on how they can take statements from young persons. The Act requires a lawyer and a parent, guardian or any other adult of their choosing to be present as they speak to the police; unless the young person chooses to do so without any adult or lawyer. Also, the police should provide youth with a written notice of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present.
If the police obtain any statement from a young person without adhering to the strict requirements of the Act, the prosecutor cannot use it against the accused in Court.
3. Bail Hearings
The Youth Criminal Justice Act makes it much easier for young persons to get bail, especially for those charged with non-violent crimes. The Act states that youth should not remain in custody, except in exceptional cases, and the Crown must show cause to detain them.
4. Youth Sentencing Options
The YCJA provides a range of sentencing options for the justice system to use on a young person charged with a criminal offence. As its principles state, the punishment given must be proportionate to the offence, promote a sense of responsibility for any harm done, and encourage rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
When a young person is arrested for a criminal offence, the police and Crown Attorneys must consider whether issuing a warning or caution is enough to prevent further criminal behaviour.
Extra-Judicial Sanctions (EJS) is another form of punishment provided by the Youth Criminal Justice Act and does not include a criminal record. The accused does not need to plead guilty, but they’re required to admit responsibility and complete certain tasks. Some examples of Extra-Judicial Sanctions are counselling, writing an essay, and community service. Once the accused completes their EJS program successfully, the Crown withdraws the charges against them.
As per the Act, youths should only be sent to jail if the Court determines that there are no other viable forms of punishment for the crime committed.
It’s good to note that, in some cases, the prosecutor can push to prosecute and sentence a young person as an adult. This usually occurs when the accused is facing violent offence charges, and guilt has been determined. The violent offences that can lead to adult sentencing are murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, and sexual aggravated assault.
What A Criminal Lawyer Can Do for You
The Youth Criminal Justice Act provides special guidelines, rights, and privileges for youths facing criminal charges. As expert youth criminal lawyers, we utilize these opportunities to the benefit of our clients. We also ensure that the police and prosecutor adhere to all the unique requirements of the YCJA.
At Zamani Law, we utilize our extensive experience and knowledge of the YCJA and Criminal Code to develop an effective defence strategy, ensuring the best results possible in youth cases. We strive to get the charges dropped in favour of diversion programs, minimize the impact of involvement with the police and Courts, and prevent youth from ending up with a criminal record or in jail.
Need A Youth Criminal Defence Lawyer?
If you or your child has been charged with a youth offence, it’s imperative to retain a criminal defence lawyer knowledgeable and experienced in youth offences. They’ll guide you through the process and fight to protect your child from the consequences of a criminal record and jail. Call Zamani Law to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
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