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Will My Youth Record Haunt Me Forever?

You Don’t Need a Conviction for a Youth Record

Young people do not always think before they act. Unfortunately, the inexperience of youth can lead to quick and harsh lessons in reality. Children ages 12 to 17 are governed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which imposes specific penalties on young people charged with criminal offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. One of the main differences from the adult system is the way records are created and handled. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, any criminal charge results in an automatic “youth record.” Merely being charged with an offence is enough. In other words, this record stays in place regardless of the outcome of your case.

The Consequences of a Youth Record Can Be Steep

Although youth records are not available to the public, they can still prevent you from doing certain things, such as landing a good job or travelling with friends. Employment applications might ask you disclose any criminal convictions. Likewise, border officials have access to criminal records. Because a youth record can stay with you for a long time, it is best to avoid getting one in the first place.

Youth Records Include Many Types of Documents

Because the youth justice system focuses on rehabilitation as well as accountability, youth records encompass much more than just police reports and court records. It is not uncommon for youth records to include government records, expert reports, agency materials, and mental health statements. Additionally, a young offender’s record might include statements from teachers, doctors, friends, family members, and criminal witnesses.

A Youth Record Can Last Up to 5 Years

Although youth records do not automatically disappear when a young person turns 18, they do get erased after a certain period of time. Young offenders do not have to take any special steps or follow any specific procedures to make this happen. The expiration date depends on the severity of the crime and the outcome of the case. As you might expect, youth records attached to relatively minor crimes disappear quite quickly, whereas records that stem from serious crimes can last for years. Additionally, children who receive an adult sentence also receive a permanent adult record.

Case Disposition Years Until Youth Record Expires
Reprimand 3 months
Charge stayed 1 year
Completion of extra-judicial sanctions program 2 years
Absolute discharge after conviction 1 year
Conditional discharge after conviction 3 years
Conviction for summary offence 3 years
Conviction for indictable offence 5 years

The Canadian youth criminal justice system recognizes that children and teens make mistakes. In the majority of cases, youth records disappear on their own, which allows young people to put their missteps behind them for good. But those missteps can still cause a great deal of grief to both the child and their parents for a long time, and it’s best to either avoid such missteps in the first place or retain experienced defence counsel at the time of any misstep to hopefully minimize the impact on the child’s future.

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