No parent wants to receive a phone call telling them that their child has been arrested. Unfortunately, in Canada as in everywhere else, some unfortunate parent is receiving that call every day. If your child has been charged with a crime, you're probably feeling overwhelmed, but don't worry. With a little understanding of the justice system and how it handles children and teens, you can hopefully get your kid out of trouble without a criminal conviction.
The Court Is Different For Minors
In general terms, a minor is legally considered to be someone under the age of 17. While you can be older than 17 and still be affected by laws that affect minors, such as drinking laws, people over the age of 17 do not typically enter the juvenile court system for such violations. On the other end of the spectrum, children younger than 7 are rarely tried for crimes they commit. Instead, their parents may be held accountable for damages in certain cases.
Despite entering an entirely different court system, children have the same rights as adults throughout all parts of the arrest and trial process. Your children cannot be searched willy-nilly, for example, unless the police can reasonably suspect they possess illegal materials or evidence of a crime. Police are also not allows to keep your child's arrest secret or to interrogate your child without you present.
The Effects Of A Criminal Record Are The Same
Canadians with criminal records may face several setbacks on the path to success, and for children who have been convicted of a crime, these setbacks can be crippling.
A criminal record will show up on a background check for the rest of your child's life. This will seriously limit the career options available to your child, and may hamper his or her attempts to gain employment even with businesses that hire past criminals, since he or she will compete with other candidates that have similar qualifications and no conviction on record.
If your child is not yet legally a citizen of Canada, you may encounter increased difficulty in naturalizing him or her. In some cases, minor crimes may be overlooked at the immigration officer's discretion. However, you will still need to demonstrate to the officer that your child is reformed and not likely to commit further crimes. At the very least, a criminal record can seriously delay the process.
Ways To Avoid Conviction And A Marked Record
Courts are generally aware that children, especially teenagers, make mistakes. For this reason, minor offenses that are also first offenses typically qualify to be discharged. When a crime is discharged, the judge erases all evidence of it from your child's record, meaning it's as if the conviction never happened. Judges can offer conditional dischargement of the crimes or may direct your child to stronger alternative measures.
Alternative measures are typically used when a child's crime is too severe to simply be discharged, but is too minor for fines and jail time. Children and teens are only eligible for alternative measures once in their lifetime to prevent delinquent youths from taking advantage of the system. Typically, alternative measures involve probationary periods, community service, and drug or alcohol rehabilitation.
If your child is charged with a crime that is not his or her first offence, then avoiding a criminal record may be significantly more difficult. However, you shouldn't lose hope: you may still be able to get out of the charges with a strong defense and a skilled criminal defence lawyer. In the court room, you'll either need to be able to show your child is completely innocent, or you'll need to demonstrate remorse and a low chance of reoffending.
When it comes to getting your child out of trouble, contrition is key. The court's main interest when it comes to troubles youths is to make sure they understand the severity of their crimes and won't reoffend. Talk to your lawyer about how your child can make his or her remorse clear to the court, and you just might be able to avoid a permanent stain on your child's record.