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Steps in a youth case

How does my lawyer help during each step?

After you're charged

Your lawyer explains what the criminal charges are and what could happen to you because of them. This depends on many things, such as:

Your lawyer helps you get the best possible result. For example, your lawyer can ask the Crown attorneyThe Crown attorney, who is sometimes called a prosecutor, is a lawyer who presents the case against you in court.X to charge you with a less serious crime.

Your lawyer should tell you about different choices and what might happen, including how likely it is that you'll be found guilty.

In Ontario, half of the charges against young people that go to court end up with the young person being found guilty.

The chances of being found guilty depend on many things, including the type of crime and whether or not there are programs in the community that the young person can take part in rather than going to court.

(Statistics Canada)

When you're in court

Your lawyer speaks for you in court and explains what you need to do. There may even be times when your lawyer can go to court and you won't have to.

You may have to go to court many times even if your case doesn't go to trial.

The court process takes a long time. It could even take more than 3 months from the first time you're in court until the last time. For very serious crimes, it usually takes much longer, sometimes even a year or more.

If you're thinking about options instead of a trial

Taking part in special programs

Instead of having a trial or pleading guilty, sometimes your lawyer can arrange something called extrajudicial sanctions Extrajudicial sanctions are special programs that a young person can take part in as a way to take responsibility for a crime without pleading or being found guilty. They're sometimes called "diversion". They aren't offered in every case. They're usually only for minor crimes. If they're offered, you have to decide if you want to take part. If you finish the program, your court case is over and you won't have a youth court record. X . These are special programs that a young person can take part in as a way to take responsibility for a crime.

They aren't offered in every case. It's also not something you have to do. It's up to you to decide if you want to take part in an extrajudicial sanction Extrajudicial sanctions are special programs that a young person can take part in as a way to take responsibility for a crime without pleading or being found guilty. They're sometimes called "diversion". They aren't offered in every case. They're usually only for minor crimes. If they're offered, you have to decide if you want to take part. If you finish the program, your court case is over and you won't have a youth court record. X .

If you finish the program, the court dismissesIf your charges are dismissed, this means that your case is over and you're not found guilty.X , withdrawsWithdrawn means that the Crown attorney, who's the lawyer who presents the case against you, decides not to continue with your charges. They can't bring the same charges back. So your case ends and you're not found guilty.X , or staysStayed means that the judge orders that the court process pause or end. If it's paused, this means that the court process could start again within a year. And if it isn't started again, the court process ends. If it's ended, this means you're not found guilty. X your charge.

If you don't finish the program, you may have to go back to court.

Pleading guilty without a trial

You might decide to take responsibility for the crime by pleading guilty. You never have to do this and should talk to your lawyer about why you might choose to plead guilty.

If you plead guilty, a judge decides what your sentence will be. In doing this, the judge looks at:

Your lawyer and the Crown attorneyThe Crown attorney, who is sometimes called a prosecutor, is a lawyer who presents the case against you in court.X might agree on what sentence to suggest to the judge.

When you're at trial

Your lawyer prepares your case and presents it to the court. This includes getting your witnesses, questioning witnesses, and telling the court why you should be found not guilty.

Your lawyer also helps you decide if you want to testify in court.

If the court finds you guilty

Your lawyer can explain to the judge what type of sentenceA sentence is the punishment that the court gives you if you're found guilty.X would be best for you.

The judge decides what your sentenceA sentence is the punishment that the court gives you if you're found guilty.X will be based on details about you and your crime. For example, the judge might consider how serious the crime was, your age, and any harm done to any victims of the crime.

(Reviewed August 2015)