Youth FAQs – Criminal

How old do I have to be to be charged with a crime?

You must be at least 12 years of age.

If you do something while you are under 12 that would be a crime if you were older, you cannot be charged. Child Protection or other services might become involved. This is based on an assumption that the few youth under 12 who do engage in serious crimes can be dealt with more effectively by child welfare or mental health agencies.

If you break a law after you turn 12 but you are under 18, you may be charged with a crime in the youth criminal justice system. You will be governed by the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). (see link below)

If you break a law after you turn 18, you may be charged in the adult criminal justice system.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be to receive an adult sentence?

An “adult sentence” is a sentence that could be given to an adult who has been convicted of the same offence that was committed by a person aged 14-17.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), youth aged 14 or more can receive adult sentences if they are found guilty of any offence for which an adult could get a prison sentence of more than two years, if convicted (examples: first degree murder, second degree murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, serious repeat violent offences or other serious crimes). A court generally gives such a sentence if it determines that no youth sentence would be long enough to hold the young person accountable for his/her crime.

However, the young person will not be transferred to adult court for the trial. The adult sentence will only be imposed after a trial in youth court.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

How old do I have to be for my youth record to be destroyed?

It depends.

Contrary to popular belief, youth records are not automatically destroyed when you turn 18 years old.

  • If you are found guilty of a summary conviction offence, your records will be kept for a period of at least three years after the completion of your sentence. Example: if you are found guilty at 17 and complete you sentence at 19, your records will exist for 3 years (age 22).
  • If you are found guilty of an indictable offence, your records will be kept for a period of at least five years after the completion of your sentence.

This, however, only occurs if no additional offence is committed during the time that the record is open. If you do commit another offence during this time, the rules change.

For more information, go to the Federal Department of Justice > Information About Youth Records from the list of links below.

Last Reviewed: November 2010

Where can I find more information about the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

For more information about the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) see:

Last Reviewed: November 2010

Links

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