Young offenders may face the same criminal or drug charges as adults, but there are more options for the presiding Justice or Judge in Youth Court to consider. For example, in youth court, the focus is on rehabilitation and reparation, with deterrence and retribution reserved for the most serious crimes. Further, there are more sentencing options, with jail sentences the exception.
Regardless, a youth matter should always be taken seriously as a criminal record may cloud the young person's future. Accordingly, if a young person cannot afford a lawyer, there is Legal Aid and/or Court Orders that may provide funding for a lawyer.
Avoid a criminal record
The police have the option to issue warnings or cautions to young people breaking the law, but if charges are laid, diversion programs may result in the charges being withdrawn. Similarly, there are Extra-Judicial Sanctions and Discharges that prevent a young person from being saddled with a criminal record. The Criminal Code of Canada has minimum sentences for various offences, but the minimums do not apply in youth court if an application is made. Further, jail sentences are only considered for serious crimes, usually involving violence, and repeat offenders.
Regardless of the sentence imposed, a youth record can last for years, and have an adverse impact upon the young person's life. A popular misconception is that a youth record is closed when the young person turns eighteen. This isn't true! Until the youth record is closed, the young person will have "a record". If closed, the young person (who may now be an adult) is in a comparable situation to those not having a record.