Can Teens Get Adult Punishments?

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Maxime is 15 years old and has committed a crime. Will his punishment be as strict as an adult would get for the same crime? In some cases, yes.


Special Punishments for Teens

Teens under 18 who have committed a crime are usually not punished in the same way as adults. The law has special punishments for teens. Punishments for crimes are called sentences.


Some Exceptions

Sometimes teens can get punishments that are as strict as adults would get for the same crime. But this is rare.

Teens under 16 cannot get an adult punishment.

Teens 16 or older can get an adult punishment, but only for very serious crimes. Here are examples of serious crimes:

  • murder or attempted murder
  • some types of sexual assault
  • selling drugs (called trafficking) for a criminal gang
  • robbery using a weapon


Who Decides?

The criminal and penal prosecuting attorney is a government lawyer, often called a prosecutor. The prosecutor takes people accused of crimes to court in a criminal trial.

The prosecutor can ask the judge in youth court to give an adult punishment.

The prosecutor must prove these things:

  • The teen is as morally guilty as an adult.
  • A youth punishment would not be enough to hold the teen accountable for the crime.

The court takes into account different things about the teen and the crime, including these things:

  • the teen’s age, level of maturity and personality
  • the seriousness and circumstances of the crime
  • whether the teen had trouble with the law or was found guilty of a crime in the past.


Getting an Adult Punishment: A Big Difference

Punishments for teens are usually lighter than adult punishments. For example, the hardest punishment a teen can get for attempted murder is three years under custody and supervision. But an adult would be sent to prison for life for the same crime.

Also, a teen who commits a crime has a right to confidentiality. This means that no one can give out any information to the public that would tell them who the teen is. But teens who receive adult sentences do not have this right.



Have you committed a crime? Learn what can happen.

Caught by the Police? What Happens Next?
Suspected of a Crime? You Have Rights

Alternatives to Court

Extrajudicial Measures: The Police Decide
Extrajudicial Sanctions: Instead of a Trial

Going to Court

Appearing in Youth Court
Steps in the Youth Court Process
Youth Sentences
Can Teens Be Sent to Prison?
Can Teens Get Adult Punishments?

Criminal Records

What is a Youth Record?
Impact of Having a Youth Record

Important !
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.