Are Youth Criminal Offenders Treated the Same as Adults?

PUBLISHED ON February 19, 2021

youth criminal defence lawyer

Youths are held to the same standards as adults when it comes to following the law. Youths can be charged with theft, robbery, assault, sexual assault, domestic assault, impaired driving, drug offences, weapons offences, and any other criminal offence defined by the Criminal Code of Canada.

However, unlike adults charged with crimes, the YCJA (Youth Criminal Justice Act) outlines the procedures that govern young offenders who are charged with criminal offences. While many of the procedures are similar, there are some significant differences.

  • Questioning – Unless waived, the police cannot question a youth suspected of a crime without the presence of an adult. An “adult” includes among others, a parent, guardian, or child advocate from Child and Family Services.
  • Arrest – Upon arrest, the police must inform the youth of their rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel. Since most youths are not familiar with their legal rights, the police have a responsibility to ensure they understand those rights. Because of this, all arrested youths must be given specific information enumerated under the
  • Release on Bail – The police can release a youth charged with a criminal offence without into the custody of a parent or guardian depending on the nature of the criminal offence. For more serious crimes, the police and Crown could detain the youth in a juvenile detention facility or remand facility until a formal bail hearing is held in front of a justice. The justice will determine if the youth should be released and the terms and conditions for the release.
  • Trial – The youth will be required to attend future court hearings including their trial. After a youth is released from custody, the surety – typically the parent or guardian – will need to ensure the youth appears in court.
  • Consequences – When a youth is convicted and found guilty of a criminal offence, their sentencing guidelines are normally different from those of an adult offender. The main objective of the Crown and court is to attempt to rehabilitate the young offender.


As such, community service, mandatory education courses, and other such punishments are common rather than imprisonment in a juvenile detention facility. However, for more serious offences, a period of incarceration may still occur.

Are Youth Criminal Records Automatically Sealed?

This is not a simple answer and automatic sealing does not always occur.  If you want to ensure your record is sealed, it is best to get assistance from a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto.

The foregoing is not intended to provide legal advice.  To receive legal advice, you should contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer.  While juvenile criminal offences might not seem serious, they should be treated with the same seriousness as adult criminal offences. If your teenager has been detained, arrested, or charged with a crime, you need help from a skilled Toronto youth criminal defence lawyer, like Brian Ross. Call (416) 658-5855 to schedule a consultation today!


A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications. Don't take a chance with an inexperienced attorney. I will fight to get your life back as I have done with countless others before you.

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Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

Selected for the 2022, 2023, and 2024 editions of the Best Lawyers in Canada

Inclusion in the Best Lawyers in Canada is based on a rigorous peer-review survey. Recognition by Best Lawyers symbolizes excellence in practice and specifically, high calibre work in criminal defence.


Mr. Ross is a member of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association and Legal Aid Ontario’s “Extremely Serious Matters” Panel, consisting of criminal lawyers deemed to have the proven experience necessary to conduct trials in the most serious of criminal matters.


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