Teens under 18 who are in trouble with the law will meet different people who work in the legal system. This article explains who these people are, what they do and when they become involved in a teen’s case.
The police are usually the first ones involved when a teen is suspected of committing a crime. Here are some things the police can do:
- give the teen a ticket
- give the teen a warning
- refer the teen to a community organization
- arrest or detain the teen
- give the teen a document called a promise to appear that tells the teen when to go to court and what conditions to obey
- question the teen as part of their investigation
As soon as they stop a teen, the police must contact the parents.
The police must let the parents be present while they question the teen, unless the teen does not want them to be present.
For more information, read our article Your Child, the Police and You.
A youth worker works with teens who are in trouble with the law. Youth workers are professionals who are usually trained in social work, criminology or psychology. They work in youth centres.
Youth workers decide whether teens qualify for an extrajudicial sanctions program. Youth workers and teens choose the sanction together and decide when it must be completed.
Youth workers also work with teens who are found guilty of a crime by a court. They prepare reports that help judges decide the best sentences for the teens. Youth workers also work with teens who are on probation.
What is the connection between youth workers and the DYP?
In Quebec, the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) is responsible for both youth protection and teens who are in trouble with the law. But youth workers deal only with teens who are in trouble with the law. They do not make decisions about child protection. Other professionals do child protection work.
An Organisme de justice alternative or OJA (alternative justice organization) is a community organization. It works with teens who are stopped by the police and suspected of committing a crime.
OJA workers and youth workers often work together to help teens. But they are involved at different stages of the process:
- When the police refer teens to an OJA, OJA workers contact the teens and their parents.
- OJA workers also help teens who get an extrajudicial sanction or who must carry out a sentence ordered by a judge, such as community work or mediation with the victim.
To learn more about OJAs, visit the websites of the Regroupement des organismes de justice alternative du Québec and the Association des organismes de justice alternative du Québec (websites in French only). These are two groups or associations of OJAs.
Criminal and Penal Prosecuting Attorney
The criminal and penal prosecuting attorney is the government lawyer who brings cases to court against people suspected of committing crimes. This lawyer is also called the prosecutor or the Crown prosecutor.
The police can send a teen’s file to the prosecutor. The prosecutor then has these choices:
- Close the case (for example, if there is not enough evidence)
- File charges against the teen (This means the teen is accused of one or more crimes.)
- Send the case to a youth worker
A prosecutor who decides to file charges will be in court during the whole court process.
To learn more, read the article in our youth section Steps in the Youth Court Process.
Anyone detained or arrested by the police has the right to a lawyer. Lawyers who act for people accused of crimes are called defence lawyers. They defend accused people in court.
To learn more about the role of a defence lawyer, read our article Your Child’s Right to a Lawyer When Arrested or Detained.
|Teens who must appear in court have the right to be represented by a lawyer. Most teens qualify for legal aid. To learn more, contact your local legal aid office.|
The victim has a role to play at certain points in the process.
lf the teen qualifies for an extrajudicial sanctions program, the Organisme de justice alternative contacts the victim. The aim of an extrajudicial sanction is to make the teen repair the harm done. So, the law lets victims give their opinions about the sanction.
If the teen goes to trial, the victim might have to testify in court.
If the teen has been found guilty, the court sometimes contacts the victim before deciding on the sentence.
|Good to Know! The victim does not take the accused to court. The criminal and penal prosecuting attorney makes this decision.|
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.