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Youth crimes: Will I go to jail?

Many young people make mistakes in their youth. Some mistakes, like ignoring homework or staying out too late may only result in parental and educational consequences. But other bad choices, like vandalism, breaking and entering, theft and impaired driving can all result in more severe penalties.

If a young person has been charged with a crime, a very common first thought is “will I go to jail?”. While both youths and parents may not want to hear it, the answer is yes - jail is a possibility. But it depends on the severity of the crime.

To understand what your options are, it’s important to understand what the Youth Criminal Justice Act – the legislation that governs criminal disciplinary action against youths - aims to achieve. Essentially, the act aims to rehabilitate youths instead of incarcerating them for mistakes made while they are underage.

The crime itself doesn’t change – a youth would still be held in violation of the Criminal Code of Canada. The major difference is in the sentencing. Also, that that youth criminal records are destroyed once a certain waiting period has passed, and no further crimes have been committed.

At outlined in an article on, the Act imposes alternatives to jail time, the most common being community service. Other penalties include warnings and apologies. Other penalties that also apply to adults may also apply to youths, such as counseling and compensation.

However, if a youth commits a serious offence, such as first-degree murder, not only would jail time apply, but he or she can also be tried as an adult.

If you are between the ages of 12 and 17, or if a child of yours between those ages have been charged with a crime, it’s best advised that you speak to a criminal lawyer experienced on how the Youth Criminal Justice Act is applied. He or she can tell you what your legal options are, and how to best pursue an outcome that protects your interests.

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