The Youth Criminal Justice Act came into effect in 2003, with an emphasis on rehabilitating and reintegrating young offenders. The Liberal government at the time acknowledged that the justice system can do more harm than good, and youth who commit minor offences between the ages of 12 and 17 should and can be effectively dealt with outside court. As a result, there has been a steady decline in the number of youth facing charges in Calgary and across Canada and those sentenced to custody. (Source: http://edmontonjournal.com/news/insight/breaking-the-youth-crime-cycle-new-strategies-aiming-to-rehabilitate-young-offenders-have-mixed-results)
Although this is good news for youth who commit minor offences, it is still important to get help from a lawyer if you are a youth facing minor or more serious criminal charges.
Some common questions asked by youth
- Can I call a lawyer when I get to the police station?
Yes, you have the right to a lawyer and should call one.
- I have been charged with a crime, do I need a lawyer?
Yes, a young person who has been charged with a crime in Calgary needs advice from a lawyer who is an expert in criminal law or better yet, youth criminal law. If you cannot afford lawyer, a Legal Aid Lawyer from the Youth Defence Office in your area might help you. Look in the telephone book or refer to the Yellow Pages Online Directory under “Lawyers”.
There are many reasons why you should call a lawyer
- Anything you say can be used against you as evidence in court. A lawyer will give you advice about making statements to the police.
- You have the right to legal advice and you should take advantage of that right.
- Your lawyer acts for you and not for your parents or any other adult.
- Your lawyer knows the law and the legal system and will know the best way to help you throughout the entire legal process.
- Your lawyer can explain your options and the consequences of choosing among them.
Finding the right lawyer for you
It’s important to choose a lawyer who can work well with you. You want a lawyer who is respectful of you, listens to what you have to say, and respects how you want to proceed in your case. You want a lawyer you can trust and are comfortable talking to about the details of your case, however personal these may be.
If you’re in trouble with the police, you need a lawyer who knows and understands criminal law. An experienced criminal lawyer knows the rules that must be followed in criminal cases, knows how to protect your rights, and has lots of experience dealing with the police and the Crown Prosecutor and is familiar with the court processes
You also need a lawyer who thoroughly understands the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This law includes special rules and procedures that apply to young people who are at least 12 but younger than 18 when they’re accused of committing a crime.
Because the law treats young people differently than it treats adults, the more experience your lawyer has with youth criminal law, the better they can defend you.
Contact a Calgary Youth Lawyer
Maureen McConaghy is an experienced youth lawyer. Maureen spent her early years as a prosecutor in the Youth Court and knows the special procedures and guidelines when youth are prosecuted. She takes the time to meet with young persons, and often their adult care provider, to explain in detail the charges they face and the potential consequences. Contact Maureen today for a free consultation.