The Laws that Apply to Your Child when Charged with a Crime

If your child is charged with a criminal offence there are a number of laws that may apply to his or her situation. Think of the criminal justice system like a puzzle, with a lot of smaller pieces of law that fit together to make up the bigger picture. The main acts to be considered are: the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. (There are others, like the Canada Evidence Act, that also play a role but less often).

The most obvious of the four, the Criminal Code is a massive piece of legislation that lays out all the potential crimes with which you can be charged, defences to those charges, sentences and procedural issues.

If your child is charged with a drug offence (possession, trafficking etc) the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act also applies, laying out the kinds of substances that are illegal, and defining drug related crimes and penalties.

No matter the crime with which your child is charged, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is another piece of federal legislation that applies, and in the criminal context, defines the rights your child has and the ways in which state actors (like the police) can and cannot infringe on those rights.

Lastly, and probably most importantly when it comes to a young person, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is legislation which outlines special rules and considerations that apply to children (12-18) charged with a criminal offence.

When you put this legislative puzzle together to form the criminal justice system, different laws will apply in different ways at different times. For example: your child is charged with assault – the crime of assault is listed in the Criminal Code, but the sentence possibilities will be in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and the provisions of the Charter may apply if the police officers who attended the scene arrested your child without reasonable and probable grounds.

Your lawyer should have an understanding of the applicable sections in all these laws, how they interact with one another, and how they can be used to assist your child in navigating the criminal justice system.


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