I’m under 18 and charged with a crime. What are my rights?

As a young person you have all of the same rights as an adult who is charged with a crime, plus some special rights that only apply to young people.

The Criminal Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the laws that give legal rights to both adults and youth. The law that gives special rights to young people from age 12 to 17 is called the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YJCA).

Some of the rights you have that are the same as adults include the right to:

  • silence
  • not be by the police unfairly
  • know why the police are detaining or arresting you
  • not be searched unreasonably
  • speak to a lawyer in most situations
  • instruct your own lawyer
  • a if you want one

Some of the special youth rights that you have include:

  • The involvement of parents or a supportive adult.
  • The right to a free lawyer in certain situations, including hearings, trials, and reviews.
  • Special privacy rules about your identity in court, who can access your youth record, and whether the information in your youth record can be shared.
  • Jail is only allowed as a last resort.

Get legal help

If you’re charged with a crime, it’s best to get help from a lawyer experienced in youth criminal justice. You may qualify for a legal aid certificate from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) for a free lawyer. If LAO does not give you a certificate, in some cases a judge will order a certificate for you.

You can also contact Justice for Children and Youth for free legal help.

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