Young Offender Myths

Dispelling Toronto Youth Criminal Law Myths

The public understanding of Toronto Criminal Youth Law is rampant with myths and misunderstandings. There are a lot of variables and exceptions that make each case a little different. To truly understand what you, or your child, is facing it’s best to speak with a youth criminal lawyer.

However, to get you started, we take a look at some of the most common myths in youth criminal law and the truth behind them.

Myth 1: Are Criminal Records Erased When You Become An Adult?

It’s a common myth that youth criminal records are erased once you become an adult. The truth is there is no set age where your criminal record is removed. Although the details are complicated a criminal record will affect your future, so it’s worth getting an understanding of how this works.

In short, for a youth criminal record to be sealed there are a few factors that need to be considered:

  • Age of the accused: If 18 years or older at the time of the arrest and conviction, the record is permanent.
  • The type of conviction: A conviction of an indictable offence remains on a youth record for a minimum of 5 years. A summary offence conviction remains for a minimum of 3
  • Length of the sentence: The above years do not start until after the sentence and/or probation period ends.

For example, consider a 14-year-old who is convicted of an indictable offence. The young offender may not be convicted until they are 15. Let’s say they are given 3-year probation. At the end of this probation, they still must wait 5 more years before their youth criminal record is removed. In this scenario, the record will last until they are 23.

Of course, it is not always this simple. There are many exceptions to each of these guidelines, and sentencing is not always this straightforward. It is best to talk to a youth criminal lawyer to understand what your child is likely to face.

Myth 2: Can A Young Offender Be Tried As An Adult?

When a young offender commits a serious offence, such as manslaughter, attempted murder, or homicide, youth criminal law allows them to be tried as an adult. However, they do not have to be tried as an adult.

Generally, the reason to try a youth as an adult is to try and get a longer sentence. Youth sentencing is typically more lenient than adult sentencing as it takes into consideration all the circumstances of the offender and factors in the prospects for rehabilitation. There is a greater risk associated with more serious offenders, so the Crown may feel that the offence requires longer sentencing.

Political or strategic factors can also come into play. For example, if gang-related violence is having an impact on the community, there may be more public political pressure to serve harsher sentences. As a result, youth facing gang-related charges may end up being tried as adults.

A strategic reason for charging a youth as an adult can arise when the charges involve multiple people. For example, the Crown may wish to try some of those involved as adults and others as youth. These two trials would happen separately, allowing them to use statements from one trial in the other.

A potential benefit of being tried as an adult is receiving access to a preliminary hearing.

Only adults have a right to a preliminary hearing. This hearing gives the opportunity to test the strength of the Crown’s case. It prevents needless exposure to a public trial by determining whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed.

Myth 3: Are Young Offenders Guaranteed Bail?

Under the current state of youth criminal law accused are not always guaranteed bail. Yes, courts generally prefer to grant young people bail, but it isn’t always possible. Despite almost always leaning towards giving them bail, youth detention centres are full. No one is guaranteed bail.

Reasons for denying bail to youth always comes down to a risk assessment. Courts consider:

  • The risk of reoffending while out on bail.
  • The risk of the accused interfering with witnesses
  • The risk that they will breach bail.
  • The risk to society by allowing the accused to go out on bail.

When preparing for a bail hearing, you need to have a clear understanding of how you will mitigate these risks. By presenting a strong surety and release plan you can overcome these risks and increase the likelihood of getting bail.

Surety & Release Plan For Young Offenders

The best surety is almost always a parent. They should at least acknowledge the possibility of their child’s involvement in the charges they are facing. At times, given the allegations, it can be difficult for a parent to do so. However, to increase the chance of a justice granting a bail a potential surety should acknowledge there are some merits to the allegations.

By honestly recognizing that there is a possibility your child is involved it gives the court more confidence in you as a surety

A good release plan will minimize the risks that the court is concerned about. For example, you could have a plan that the child will stay at the cottage with a parent. This keeps their distance from potential risk factors such as certain areas of the city, witnesses, and the general public.

Hiring a Toronto bail hearing lawyer can help you create a compelling surety profile and release plan.

Myth 4: Do Young Offenders Face Imprisonment?

For young offenders, imprisonment is the least desirable outcome, but it still happens. The Youth Criminal Justice Act emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration. As a result, judges will try their best to find something more beneficial to the youth than a jail sentence. 

Sentences that include treatment orders, secured-custody or open-custody living arrangements and mandatory schooling are available options to sentencing judges. But, as with bail hearings, the biggest concern comes down to risk. If the risk to society or of reoffending is considered too high, jail may be the only option for the judge.

No one in the court system hopes to imprison a young offender, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. As mentioned earlier, youth detention centres are, unfortunately, full.

Hire A Toronto Youth Criminal Lawyer

The best thing you can do to help your child is to hire an experienced youth criminal lawyer. They understand that your child is more than their charges. William Jaksa has over 10 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. He understands the concerns and importance of the parent’s role in this process.

Schedule a consultation today.

Questions? Contact William Jaksa Today.

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