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Young Offender: Understanding Your Child's Rights

Across Canada, youth crime and rehabilitation are serious issues that requires individualized attention that is unique to the offender. Despite the many challenges young criminals may face, it can have a positive effect in protecting them from committing offences in the future and leading a crime-free life as an adult. 

If your child has been charged with an offence, you might feel lost or confused in how you can help or what rights they have. Today, What The Law will guide you through young offenders and how they can be defended with the help of a young offender lawyer.

What is a Young Offender?

In brief, a young offender is a young person under the age of 18 years old who has been charged with a criminal offence. The majority of young offenders are teenagers who are involved in misdemeanors or ‘petty crimes’ such as vandalism, trespassing, or minor theft.

However, in some cases, young offenders do commit more serious crimes, such as aggravated assault, sexual violence, and even murder. This is a challenging issue that requires an incredibly careful approach from all parties involved to ensure that the child does not reoffend and to keep them safe from harm to themselves or others around them. In these serious cases, a child could be tried as an adult offender and potentially given long or lifelong sentences. 

<h3> How is a Young Offender Different from an Adult Offender? </h3>

In Canada, young people are subject to a slightly different legal system than adults are. Whereas adults who commit offences face the criminal justice system, young people face the youth justice system. The youth justice system is designed to appropriately teach young people about the negative outcomes of crime, but it also recognizes the need to be flexible so that the child has the opportunity for a better future away from crime.

According to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the criminal justice system recognizes:

  • Youth must be separate from the system used for adults
  • The importance of including families and communities around a young person
  • The value of finding alternatives to the traditional, formal court setting that will work better with certain young people.

It is important to remember that the justice system is not designed to simply punish criminals, but to also help rehabilitate them so they can safely return to society. This is especially true for young offenders, who are a suitable age to learn from their actions and lead a safer life away from crime.

If they are found guilty of their offence, young people can be served with a sentence. Sentencing is very individualized according to each child's maturity, the exact crime they committed and whether or not they are seen as a threat to the public. Sentences for young offenders in Canada typically last up to two years, but in some exceptions may be as long as ten years.

What Rights Does a Young Offender Have?

Because children are judged through a specialized branch of the legal system, you might not be aware of what to expect for your child or what rights they may have.

Although they might be subject to a different system, this does not mean they lose any of their rights as listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, (see s 7 - 15, Part I of the Constitution Act). This means your child has the right to:

  • Not being detained arbitrarily (unfairly)
  • Not be searched unreasonably
  • Be informed of the reasons for their arrest
  • Be released if they were unlawfully detained
  • Be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  • Have equal protection regardless of their race, origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or disability. 

If your child was detained by the police, it is important that they are aware of several procedures. Firstly, the police should contact the child’s parents or guardians. It is essential that both parents and the child are reminded that they have the right to a lawyer and are permitted access to a legal professional. 

They must also not be led into pleading guilty without fully understanding their charge, its consequences, and that the option to not plead guilty is still available. 

Find a Young Offenders Lawyer for Your Child in Toronto & GTA

Criminal offences caused by young people can be daunting or a life-changing moment for your child. But no child should ever be a lost cause. By working with an experienced young offenders lawyer to defend their case, you can get the vital support to give your child the brighter future they deserve. 

If you are concerned about your child’s defence or wish to get the best support for them during this difficult time, consider contacting our team at What The Law. We know that sometimes even the nicest kids can end up in the wrong crowd and we are here to support them and their families by providing the best defence possible. With flat rate fees and 24/7 availability, you can count on our experienced young offender lawyers across the GTA to help you when you need it most. Remember, you and your child should never have to face the law alone - we are here to fight for you.

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