*2023 Results: Approx. 99% of Mark Zinck's clients avoided a criminal record (conviction) for charges of theft, fraud, assault, mischief and threats.

Criminal charges for youths under the YCJA in Canada

Those under 18 years of age at the time of an offence will be charged with the same Criminal Code offences as adults however their proceedings will be governed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). The YCJA provides special provisions for sentencing, concealment of identity, criminal records, and the release of data. Similar to adults, youth accused will be fingerprinted and have their mugshot taken by the police under the Identification of Criminals Act. They also face punishments of jail and probation upon conviction and can receive an adult criminal record.

The most common types of offences that youths get charged with in Canada include:

  1. Theft Under $5000: Often in the form of shoplifting, stealing from the workplace, or doorstep parcel theft (porch pirating)
  2. Mischief Under $5000: Graffiti / tagging, damage to vehicles, property damage
  3. Uttering Threats: Made in person, over text message, or commonly using social media platforms over the internet
  4. Assault: Bullying, school fights, or the result of other rivalries
  5. Robbery: This involves forceful taking of property. In youth cases it can result from bullying at school or more traditional forms of forceful theft (from stores, people’s homes, etc.)
  6. Break and Enter: Breaking into homes (dwellings), cars, businesses, etc.

The most common forms of youth criminal offences in Canada are the same as adults however they are more likely to involve school or sports related incidents. Social media also is the source of a lot of charges as of 2021 as often the teenager is unaware that certain statements (threats) are illegal to make. Teens also often get charged with pubishing intimate images without consent and/or child pornography related offences by sharing illegal pictures and videos of themselves or their friends.

Notice to Parent

When a youth is charged in Canada the police are required to notify their parent or guardian in writing by serving them with a “Notice to Parent” document under s. 26(1). This process is supposed to be completed as soon as possible and failure to appropriately serve the Notice to Parent could result in the youth’s charges being dropped on a technicality. The parent may first find out about the charges via a phone call from the police, or having the police take the child home prior to the Notice to Parent being served, but it must be provided either way.

The purpose of this document is not just to make the parent aware of the charges but it is also considered an important part in ensuring the youth has access to counsel and that their rights are protected. Many first time offenders are unaware of this requirement.

Appearance Notices, Undertakings, and Release Orders

When a youth is charged they will either be released with a court date and fingerprint date or held in custody until the resolution of their case. The vast majority of youths will ultimately be released while their case is pending on a Form 9 Appearance Notice, a Form 10 Undertaking, or a Form 11 Release Order (after a bail hearing). For Form 10 and 11 releases there will be conditions that may include not to attend at certain places, communicate with certain people, not to access the internet and/or social media (or have conditions placed on it), abide by curfews, etc.

Sometimes the release conditions can be difficult to manage. A youth may have to switch schools, stay away from their friends/social group, avoid social media or not possess a cell phone, and in some cases may not be able to return home. While some youths have friends and family members that can assist, others may find themselves living on the streets or in a group home or shelter because they have nowhere else to go.

While most of our youth clients have loving parents that support their children and get along with them reasonably well, this is not always the case and unfortunately some accused youths end up displaced from their home.

Police interviewing of youths

Like with any crime the police will often want to interview or take a statement from the accused as soon as possible. This may be CCTV video recorded, or sometimes just via audio recording. The YCJA provides for very stringent waivers to be made by the youth to obtain such a statement and also guarantees that the youth’s parents can be present if requested. If the police were to interview a youth without giving them the opportunity to have a parent present this would invalidate the statement, particularly if a Notice to Parent had not yet been served.

Can a youth get an adult criminal record in Canada?

Yes a youth can get an adult criminal record in Canada for behaviour that occurred while they are under age 18. It is a common misconception that the youth record is erased once the accused turns 18. It does not. The retention period will depend on the nature of the charge and the outcome of their case. In some circumstances, even a withdrawn charge will stay on a youth’s record for 2 years. Further, if a subsequent offence occurs after the youth turns 18 the YCJA charge could become part of their permanent adult criminal record.

Many youths are also sentenced to periods of probation that last beyond their 18th birthday. Any breach of the terms of the probation will count as an adult charge of Fail to Comply. This means they may get convicted as an adult for the new charge and also have the older YCJA youth charge become part of their adult record.

My son or daughter was arrested and charged as a youth. How can I help them?

If your child, most likely teenager, has been charged by the police it is important that you hire a lawyer to represent them as soon as possible (upon receiving the Notice to Parent or when first contacted by the police). The sooner a lawyer is retained the less likely their rights may be violated. There are certain proactive steps and rights that may need to be exercised immediately which could help your child’s case tremendously. If you wait to hire a lawyer these options may be lost forever. The outcome of a criminal case is generally permanent so it is extremely important that things are handled correctly from the beginning.

What are the potential punishments for youths under the YCJA?

Similar to adults, youths can be sentenced to probation, house arrest, and jail. They can also receive a criminal record as a result of the charges which could impact their schooling, future work prospects, immigration, and travel (including to the U.S.). Ultimately the sentence imposed upon a finding of guilt will be up to the judge and within the limits of the YCJA. In some cases, however, the youth may be sentenced as an adult.

If the youth is sentenced to jail they will serve their time in a youth correctional institution up until they turn 18 at which point they will be transferred to the adult jail for the remainder of the sentence. Most jail sentences of under 2 years will be followed by a period of probation.

How can I get my child’s YCJA youth charge dropped?

Depending on the nature of the charge, the current behavioural situation of the youth accused, the youth’s criminal history, and numerous other factors it may be possible to have the charges dropped (withdrawn) and avoid probation, jail, or a criminal record. Sometimes an agreement can be worked out for the youth to obtain some counselling that may be beneficial in addressing the underlying issues that led to the charge. One of the principles of the YCJA is that if possible and in the public interest to do so, it is best to rehabilitate the youth so that they do not reoffend in the future.

We are successful in having the majority of our YCJA youth charges dropped by the Crown Attorney without having to go to jail. An important factor is that the youth is relatively well behaved at home and has the support of their parents and also is responsive to following instructions from their lawyer.

Just because a youth is charged does not automatically mean they have behavioural problems at home, at school, have a bad attitude, and do not respond well to discipline. The charge often relates to something that happened outside the home or out of lack of understanding that the behaviour was a criminal offence. Many of our youth clients come from a good home, are good students, and very respectful people. Such clients have the best chance of getting the charges against them dropped and in many cases do not belong in the criminal justice system.

   Call us today.

You don't have to jeopardize your future or waste thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees. We provide effective and affordable lawyer representation for those charged with criminal offences throughout Ontario, Canada.

Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on criminal law protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record and conviction.

    call now: 647-228-5969


Your case will be defended by a fully licensed Practicing Lawyer of the Law Society of Ontario. For more information about our lawyer, click here.

We provide our clients with:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration/IRCC issues
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • Clear goals of getting charges dropped and bail conditions varied without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Experienced, focused counsel

* Please note:

If you are not a paying client, we cannot answer questions and provide assistance about avoiding jail and/or a criminal record, employment background checks, IRCC/immigration applications and status, or travel to the U.S. in the future. This includes those who have already retained other counsel and those whose cases have already been completed.

We only can respond to calls and emails relating to current Ontario criminal cases. Please see our FAQ for a listing of the courthouses we service.

Are you a lawyer? If you are defending a criminal case and are looking for expert advice regarding possible defences, case strategies, and information release management call us at: 647-228-5969.

Please note: We do not accept legal aid certificate cases. All clients are handled on a private retainer only.

*2023 Results: the percentage of 99% of clients avoiding a criminal record (conviction) stated on this page is based solely on Lawyer Mark Zinck's personal representation of approximately 2000 criminal defence case clients as of the year 2023. Past results are not necessarily an indication of future results.


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   Criminal Information:

   We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration/IRCC issues
  • Employment background check advice and services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Timely resolutions
  • Lawyer/client privilege
  • Experienced, focused counsel