Court Process

  1. What court will I go to?

    The Courthouse:

    You will appear in a Youth Justice Court, a special court to deal with young people charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

    Your Promise to Appear, or whatever document you and your parents received from the police, will tell you which Courthouse and which courtroom to go to when you arrive. If you unsure about where to go, ask duty counsel to check the “court docket”. The docket is a list of the people scheduled to appear in which courtroom that day.

    You will be searched by Court Officers when you enter the courthouse. Do not bring any illegal materials, weapons or anything that could be used as a weapon with you to court (e.g. knife, razor blade, non-prescription drugs). Even a small penknife on your key ring will be taken away from you before you enter the courthouse.

    Youth Justice Courts are public and have a publication ban:

    In general, the courts are open to the public, except if the judge feels that certain information should not be heard by the public. If you do not want others present, you (or your lawyer) may ask the judge to keep the public out of the courtroom.

    Even if the court remain open to the public, usually no one has the right to publish your name or give any information that may identify you. The media may publish what is happening in the trial and facts of the case that would not identify you. However, if the police believe that you are dangerous and that the publication of your name would help them arrest you, a police officer can apply to the court for permission to publish your name.

    If you are given an adult sentence (for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault or repeat violent offences), your name can be published and this can sometimes happen even if you are given a youth sentence.

    Behaviour in the Courtroom:

    Courtrooms are very formal and we recommend the following:

    • do not talk while seated in courtroom
    • listen to the court proceedings
    • remove all non-religious headgear
    • do not wear or use headphones
    • do not chew gum or bring food and drinks
    • turn off cell phones
    • dress neatly and avoid t-shirts with offensive or rude language and designs
    • do not speak with any co-accused (especially if you have been ordered by the court to not talk or be near them)

    Entering the Courtroom:

    • When you enter the courtroom sit on the benches in the back main area until your name is called.
    • When your name is called go to the front of the room and stand next to your lawyer or the duty counsel lawyer.
    • The Crown Attorney, who is prosecuting your case, will usually stand to your right, facing the judge or justice of the peace.
    • Your lawyer or duty counsel will state if your parents are there with you and you will be asked to confirm your date of birth.
    • Your charge will be read and you will be asked if you understand it. If you don’t want your charge read out loud in court ask your lawyer or duty counsel to have the reading of the charge(s) waived(for example, if the charge is a sensitive matter like a sexual offence).
    • The court is generally open to the public, but no one can publish identifying information about you.

    Instructions from the Court:

    • Listen carefully to what the judge or justice of the peace says in court about your case. It is important for you to ask questions if you don’t understand what is being said.
    • Make sure that you understand the court’s instructions, especially about your next court date and any conditions that may apply (e.g. curfews). Listen for the time and date that they want you to come back. If you can’t make it back on the date that’s being set, tell your lawyer or duty counsel right there so another date can be arranged.
    • You will be given a reminder slip with the date and time of your next court appearance. If you don’t show up, the court can issue a bench warrant for your arrest and you could face additional, separate charges.
    • All conditions remain in effect during school breaks and holidays (e.g. curfews).

    Other Court Services:

    • If you or your parents or guardians, have any language interpretation needs, it is important that you tell the court in advance and they will provide an interpreter free of charge.
    • Some youth courts have Aboriginal court workers, African-Canadian court workers, mental health court workers, and School Board liason workers.
    • Some youth courts have specialized options for mental health issues and drug-related issues.

    Contact the courthouse to find out what services offered at your location and to connect to these programs.

  2. What will happen the first time I go to court?

    1. If you are not represented by anyone**, the judge must ask you if you want a lawyer. If you do, he or she must refer you to a Legal Aid program if there is one in your area. If there is no program or you have been refused, and if you tell the judge that you want a lawyer, the judge will make sure that a lawyer is appointed to you.
    2. The judge will read the charge(s) to you. If you are not represented by a lawyer, the judge must be sure that you understand the charge(s) against you.
    3. If you are charged with a very serious offence (murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault) then the judge must give you this warning: An adult sentence will be imposed if you are found guilty unless the court orders that you are should not be given an adult sentence and that a youth sentence must be imposed.

    The judge might ask if you plead guilty or not guilty, but this doesn’t always happen on a first appearance. You should have discussed this with your lawyer before your appearance in court. Your lawyer can advise you on how you should plead. If you are going to plead not guilty, your first appearance in court will be set to another date, to allow you and the crown attorney time for preparation, including getting your witnesses organized.

    ** Duty Counsel will be able to help you but only on the day you are in court, they are lawyers paid by Legal Aid Ontario. Duty counsel have offices in each of the youth courts, will give you legal advice and help you in court free of charge. Duty counsel should be used for straightforward matters (like a first appearance), getting you a lawyer when you have been refused Legal Aid, or helping you if the Crown offers extrajudicial sanctions (EJS) and you want to accept it. For more serious charges, (such as entering a plea, trials or sentencing) you should have your own lawyer.

  3. What does a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” mean?

    A plea of guilty means that you admit that you committed the offence that the judge has read to you.

    You can plead not guilty if you or your lawyer are going to argue that you are not guilty according to the law. Since you do not always know the law, you need a lawyer’s advice before you plead guilty or not guilty. For example, if your lawyer feels that the prosecutor does not have a good case for the specific charge(s) against you, or the law they say you broke is not constitutional, you may legally and honestly say “not guilty”. If you plead not guilty, the prosecutor must prove the charges against you.

  4. What will happen if I enter a “guilty” plea?

    If you enter a guilty plea, the judge will listen to your plea and will then listen to the facts of the case. These will be read by the prosecutor. If the judge does not believe you understand the charges against you, the court will enter a plea of not guilty for you. If you do plead guilty, the prosecutor will read out the police summary of what happened.

    The judge will ask if you think that the facts are correct. If you believe that all or some of the facts are wrong, you will have a chance (through your lawyer) to say so and to tell the facts of the offence as you know them. If you think they are correct, you will have the chance to say so. Sometimes evidence will have to be presented to prove which version of events is true.

    If the judge is satisfied that the facts that you admit do prove the charge against you, he or she will find you guilty. If the judge is not satisfied that the facts prove the charge, the judge may change your plea to not guilty.

    If you feel you are not guilty, then plead “not guilty”. A finding of “guilt” has serious long term consequences as you will receive a sentence from the judge and a youth record that may last for over five years.

  5. What happens if I want to plead “not guilty”?

    If you want to plead “not guilty”, nothing much will happen in court on your first appearance on this charge.

    Usually the judge will give you an adjournment to get a lawyer if you do not already have one or if you have a lawyer, the court will decide on the next court date with your lawyer. This allows time for your lawyer to get materials from the prosecutor outlining the case against you and to meet with the crown attorney to discuss the case and the sentence the crown attorney will ask for.

  6. How many times will I come to court?

    Sometimes it takes a while for the police to get all the witness statements together and for your lawyer to meet the crown attorney and to agree on a trial date. You may have to go to court several times before the trial.

  7. What if I forget to come to court?

    Missing a court appearance is an offence. You can be charged with “failing to appear”. This is a separate offence and may stop you from getting bail.

  8. Will I have a jury trial?

    You can only choose to have a trial with a jury if the offence you are charged with may result in a sentence of five years or more. Offences for which you may have this choice include first and second degree murder and aggravated sexual assault. Where this applies, you also can choose to have a preliminary inquiry where the prosecutor must show they have enough evidence for a trial.

  9. What will happen at my trial?

    When you come back to the Youth Justice Court on the date of the trial, you will be asked formally how you plead to the charge. If you plead “not guilty”, the crown attorney will introduce his or her evidence. The crown attorney will call witnesses who tell their version of what happened. Witnesses will only give evidence after they have sworn to tell the truth.

    Witnesses: If you disagree with what the witnesses say, your lawyer will have a chance to cross-examine the witness. This means that they are asked questions by your lawyer about what they said when they answered the crown attorney’s questions.

    After the crown attorney has called his or her witness, your lawyer will usually call witnesses to speak in your favour.

    You will not always be called as your own witness. This will depend on how your lawyer decides to handle the case. If you are your own witness, you will be asked if you will tell the truth and to tell your version of what happened. If you do not understand a question that you are asked, or you do not know the answer, say so.

    After the trial ends:

    After the judge has listened to all the witnesses from both sides, he or she will decide whether you are “guilty” or “not guilty”.

    The decision is usually right away, but if the case is long and complicated, he or she may take several days or longer.

    Being found “not guilty” means that the case ends. You will receive no sentence or punishment. In law, a person is found not guilty because the prosecutor has not been able to prove the accused person’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Being found “guilty” means that the judge must then decide on a suitable sentence. Reas more in the sections on Sentencing Process and Sentences.

     

  • Youth Criminal Justice Act

    The YCJA provides unique rights and procedures for young people between the ages of 12 - 17 who are charged with a criminal offence in Canada.

    • Application of the YCJA

      Open
    • The Police

      Open
    • Right to a Lawyer

      Open
    • Detention

      Open
    • EJM & EJS

      Open
    • Court Process

      Close
      1. What court will I go to?

        The Courthouse:

        You will appear in a Youth Justice Court, a special court to deal with young people charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

        Your Promise to Appear, or whatever document you and your parents received from the police, will tell you which Courthouse and which courtroom to go to when you arrive. If you unsure about where to go, ask duty counsel to check the “court docket”. The docket is a list of the people scheduled to appear in which courtroom that day.

        You will be searched by Court Officers when you enter the courthouse. Do not bring any illegal materials, weapons or anything that could be used as a weapon with you to court (e.g. knife, razor blade, non-prescription drugs). Even a small penknife on your key ring will be taken away from you before you enter the courthouse.

        Youth Justice Courts are public and have a publication ban:

        In general, the courts are open to the public, except if the judge feels that certain information should not be heard by the public. If you do not want others present, you (or your lawyer) may ask the judge to keep the public out of the courtroom.

        Even if the court remain open to the public, usually no one has the right to publish your name or give any information that may identify you. The media may publish what is happening in the trial and facts of the case that would not identify you. However, if the police believe that you are dangerous and that the publication of your name would help them arrest you, a police officer can apply to the court for permission to publish your name.

        If you are given an adult sentence (for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault or repeat violent offences), your name can be published and this can sometimes happen even if you are given a youth sentence.

        Behaviour in the Courtroom:

        Courtrooms are very formal and we recommend the following:

        • do not talk while seated in courtroom
        • listen to the court proceedings
        • remove all non-religious headgear
        • do not wear or use headphones
        • do not chew gum or bring food and drinks
        • turn off cell phones
        • dress neatly and avoid t-shirts with offensive or rude language and designs
        • do not speak with any co-accused (especially if you have been ordered by the court to not talk or be near them)

        Entering the Courtroom:

        • When you enter the courtroom sit on the benches in the back main area until your name is called.
        • When your name is called go to the front of the room and stand next to your lawyer or the duty counsel lawyer.
        • The Crown Attorney, who is prosecuting your case, will usually stand to your right, facing the judge or justice of the peace.
        • Your lawyer or duty counsel will state if your parents are there with you and you will be asked to confirm your date of birth.
        • Your charge will be read and you will be asked if you understand it. If you don’t want your charge read out loud in court ask your lawyer or duty counsel to have the reading of the charge(s) waived(for example, if the charge is a sensitive matter like a sexual offence).
        • The court is generally open to the public, but no one can publish identifying information about you.

        Instructions from the Court:

        • Listen carefully to what the judge or justice of the peace says in court about your case. It is important for you to ask questions if you don’t understand what is being said.
        • Make sure that you understand the court’s instructions, especially about your next court date and any conditions that may apply (e.g. curfews). Listen for the time and date that they want you to come back. If you can’t make it back on the date that’s being set, tell your lawyer or duty counsel right there so another date can be arranged.
        • You will be given a reminder slip with the date and time of your next court appearance. If you don’t show up, the court can issue a bench warrant for your arrest and you could face additional, separate charges.
        • All conditions remain in effect during school breaks and holidays (e.g. curfews).

        Other Court Services:

        • If you or your parents or guardians, have any language interpretation needs, it is important that you tell the court in advance and they will provide an interpreter free of charge.
        • Some youth courts have Aboriginal court workers, African-Canadian court workers, mental health court workers, and School Board liason workers.
        • Some youth courts have specialized options for mental health issues and drug-related issues.

        Contact the courthouse to find out what services offered at your location and to connect to these programs.

      2. What will happen the first time I go to court?

        1. If you are not represented by anyone**, the judge must ask you if you want a lawyer. If you do, he or she must refer you to a Legal Aid program if there is one in your area. If there is no program or you have been refused, and if you tell the judge that you want a lawyer, the judge will make sure that a lawyer is appointed to you.
        2. The judge will read the charge(s) to you. If you are not represented by a lawyer, the judge must be sure that you understand the charge(s) against you.
        3. If you are charged with a very serious offence (murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault) then the judge must give you this warning: An adult sentence will be imposed if you are found guilty unless the court orders that you are should not be given an adult sentence and that a youth sentence must be imposed.

        The judge might ask if you plead guilty or not guilty, but this doesn’t always happen on a first appearance. You should have discussed this with your lawyer before your appearance in court. Your lawyer can advise you on how you should plead. If you are going to plead not guilty, your first appearance in court will be set to another date, to allow you and the crown attorney time for preparation, including getting your witnesses organized.

        ** Duty Counsel will be able to help you but only on the day you are in court, they are lawyers paid by Legal Aid Ontario. Duty counsel have offices in each of the youth courts, will give you legal advice and help you in court free of charge. Duty counsel should be used for straightforward matters (like a first appearance), getting you a lawyer when you have been refused Legal Aid, or helping you if the Crown offers extrajudicial sanctions (EJS) and you want to accept it. For more serious charges, (such as entering a plea, trials or sentencing) you should have your own lawyer.

      3. What does a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” mean?

        A plea of guilty means that you admit that you committed the offence that the judge has read to you.

        You can plead not guilty if you or your lawyer are going to argue that you are not guilty according to the law. Since you do not always know the law, you need a lawyer’s advice before you plead guilty or not guilty. For example, if your lawyer feels that the prosecutor does not have a good case for the specific charge(s) against you, or the law they say you broke is not constitutional, you may legally and honestly say “not guilty”. If you plead not guilty, the prosecutor must prove the charges against you.

      4. What will happen if I enter a “guilty” plea?

        If you enter a guilty plea, the judge will listen to your plea and will then listen to the facts of the case. These will be read by the prosecutor. If the judge does not believe you understand the charges against you, the court will enter a plea of not guilty for you. If you do plead guilty, the prosecutor will read out the police summary of what happened.

        The judge will ask if you think that the facts are correct. If you believe that all or some of the facts are wrong, you will have a chance (through your lawyer) to say so and to tell the facts of the offence as you know them. If you think they are correct, you will have the chance to say so. Sometimes evidence will have to be presented to prove which version of events is true.

        If the judge is satisfied that the facts that you admit do prove the charge against you, he or she will find you guilty. If the judge is not satisfied that the facts prove the charge, the judge may change your plea to not guilty.

        If you feel you are not guilty, then plead “not guilty”. A finding of “guilt” has serious long term consequences as you will receive a sentence from the judge and a youth record that may last for over five years.

      5. What happens if I want to plead “not guilty”?

        If you want to plead “not guilty”, nothing much will happen in court on your first appearance on this charge.

        Usually the judge will give you an adjournment to get a lawyer if you do not already have one or if you have a lawyer, the court will decide on the next court date with your lawyer. This allows time for your lawyer to get materials from the prosecutor outlining the case against you and to meet with the crown attorney to discuss the case and the sentence the crown attorney will ask for.

      6. How many times will I come to court?

        Sometimes it takes a while for the police to get all the witness statements together and for your lawyer to meet the crown attorney and to agree on a trial date. You may have to go to court several times before the trial.

      7. What if I forget to come to court?

        Missing a court appearance is an offence. You can be charged with “failing to appear”. This is a separate offence and may stop you from getting bail.

      8. Will I have a jury trial?

        You can only choose to have a trial with a jury if the offence you are charged with may result in a sentence of five years or more. Offences for which you may have this choice include first and second degree murder and aggravated sexual assault. Where this applies, you also can choose to have a preliminary inquiry where the prosecutor must show they have enough evidence for a trial.

      9. What will happen at my trial?

        When you come back to the Youth Justice Court on the date of the trial, you will be asked formally how you plead to the charge. If you plead “not guilty”, the crown attorney will introduce his or her evidence. The crown attorney will call witnesses who tell their version of what happened. Witnesses will only give evidence after they have sworn to tell the truth.

        Witnesses: If you disagree with what the witnesses say, your lawyer will have a chance to cross-examine the witness. This means that they are asked questions by your lawyer about what they said when they answered the crown attorney’s questions.

        After the crown attorney has called his or her witness, your lawyer will usually call witnesses to speak in your favour.

        You will not always be called as your own witness. This will depend on how your lawyer decides to handle the case. If you are your own witness, you will be asked if you will tell the truth and to tell your version of what happened. If you do not understand a question that you are asked, or you do not know the answer, say so.

        After the trial ends:

        After the judge has listened to all the witnesses from both sides, he or she will decide whether you are “guilty” or “not guilty”.

        The decision is usually right away, but if the case is long and complicated, he or she may take several days or longer.

        Being found “not guilty” means that the case ends. You will receive no sentence or punishment. In law, a person is found not guilty because the prosecutor has not been able to prove the accused person’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

        Being found “guilty” means that the judge must then decide on a suitable sentence. Reas more in the sections on Sentencing Process and Sentences.

         

    • Sentencing Process

      Open
    • Sentences

      Open
    • Youth Records

      Open
    • Appeals

      Open
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