Learning that your child has made a mistake bad enough that police have arrested them and they are facing criminal charges can be devastating. And as angry as you may be, you could also be incredibly scared and want to protect your child.
Under these circumstances, getting a legal lay of the land can help you make informed decisions about your child’s rights and future.
How juvenile cases are different
To begin with, you should know that Canada’s youth justice system differs from the adult system.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act aims to hold young people accountable for criminal acts in proportion to their age. It notes that people between 12 and 18 lack the maturity of adults and directs law enforcement agents to consider alternative measures, called extrajudicial measures, before charging a young person for a crime.
For instance, rather than focusing on punishing parties for breaking the law, the YCJA prioritizes interventions. The law also favours outcomes that encourage young people to repair harm and reinforce societal values.
In other words, if your child is a teenager, the courts will generally treat them differently than an adult. And rather than harsh incarceration sentences, many times, a young person will be more likely to receive:
- Conditional sentences
- Community service
- Supervision and support
These penalties aim to help young people rather than punish them, while still holding them accountable.
Other possible consequences
While your child may not face the same sentence as an adult would, criminal penalties of any kind can be embarrassing, disruptive and incredibly stressful.
Further, you should know that there are other consequences your child could be facing. Academic penalties might include suspension, loss of scholarship or disqualification from specific fields of study. An offence could also threaten your child’s participation in extracurricular programs and athletics.
Your child might also face losing their job or driver’s licence, depending on the nature of the offence.
What you can do
As a parent, you have the responsibility to help your child navigate the frightening experience of being accused of a crime.
Reaching out to discuss your case with a lawyer is a good place to start. Having legal guidance can help you help your child so that an unfortunate mistake does not result in unfair allegations or overly harsh consequences.