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Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia Youth and the Law
Crime In Progress | Extrajudicial Measures | Investigation | Youth In Court | Youth In Mall | Custodial Sentences

Q&A

Got a question? Send it along and we'll provide an answer, If you choose to include your email address we'll respond directly to you (within 2 business days) as well as post it on this Q&A page. Be sure to have a look at these questions others have asked too. The only way you can find the answer is by asking the question.

Please Note: We can only answer questions of a general nature regarding the law in Nova Scotia, Canada, as it applies to persons under the age of 18 years. We will give you legal information, not legal advice. We may also refer you to other sources of information. No lawyer-client relationship will be created. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case; laws are constantly changing. Therefore, if you have a legal problem, you should talk to a lawyer directly.

While we will do our best to keep your communication private, we cannot guarantee the confidentiality of information sent to us by email. Therefore, do not give us information that you wish to keep private.

Current Question Bank:
1. The police called my house last night and were asking my mum about a fight I was in at school yesterday. They want to talk to me about it today. Do I have to tell the police what happened?   6. A couple of girls beat me up and stole my money. I was off school for a month and I'm still afraid to go out alone even though they were caught and charged. Someone at the court said I could make a Victim Impact Statement. What's that?
2. Do I have to talk to the police if they stop me and my friends on the street?   7. A friend asked me to look after his new DVD player. I think it might be stolen but I don't want to let him down. Can I get into trouble?
3. I'm 15 and I've been charged with sexual assault. I want to tell my lawyer what happened. If I do, will she have to tell my parents? My Dad said he is paying her, so he should know exactly what is going on.   8. I was convicted of assault. The guy I hit didn't even have any bruises. Will I have a criminal record forever?
4. A couple of days ago I was in the mall and me and my friend took some candy. I was going to pay but my friend stopped me. The security guard saw us and called the police. The police officer talked to the store manager and my parents, and then said I was being let off with a warning. But I'm worried about going to jail. I'm only 13 and I've never done anything like that before.   9. My dad said if I got into trouble with the police he'd 'kill' me. I got caught shoplifting. Will my dad find out?
10. Some kids broke into my house, wrote stuff on the walls and stole some CDs and mom's jewelry. The police caught them. We've been asked to participate in a Restorative Justice Program. What's that?
5. Two of my friends, Joe and Alison, were arrested after a video store was robbed. Only Joe broke into the store, Alison just sat in the car and kept a look out. How come Alison is in trouble too?   11. I have to go to court because I stole some money from a kid’s locker at school. Will I be on T.V.?

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1. The police called my house last night and were asking my mum about a fight I was in at school yesterday. They want to talk to me about it today. Do I have to tell the police what happened?
A. No. You do not have to say anything to the police. You have a ‘right to remain silent’. If you say anything to the police you are making a statement, even if it isn’t in writing, and even if you don’t sign anything. If you make a statement, then the police might use that statement as evidence against you in court.
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2. Do I have to talk to the police if they stop me and my friends on the street?
A. No. You do not have to answer any of their questions or give them any information.
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3. I’m 15 and I’ve been charged with sexual assault. I want to tell my lawyer what happened. If I do, will she have to tell my parents? My Dad said he is paying her, so he should know exactly what is going on.
A. Even if your parents are paying your lawyer, she is working for you. Anything you say to her is confidential. Your lawyer has a duty not to tell your parents anything about your conversations with her, unless you specifically give her permission to share that information with your parents.
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4. A couple of days ago I was in the mall and me and my friend took some candy. I was going to pay but my friend stopped me. The security guard saw us and called the police. The police officer talked to the store manager and my parents, and then said I was being let off with a warning. But I’m worried about going to jail. I’m only 13 and I’ve never done anything like that before.
A. Canada has a new law, called the Youth Criminal Justice Act, that deals with crimes committed by young people. That law says that police must first look at alternatives to the court process, like giving the young person a warning or caution, instead of formally charging the young person with a criminal offence. In your situation, as you haven’t been involved with the law before, and the offence is not serious, the police officer decided not to charge you. You will not be sent to custody!

Even if you had been charged with shoplifting, the Youth Criminal Justice Act says that a custodial sentence is only supposed to be used if the crime is serious, or if the young person has a history of disobeying non-custodial sentences.
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5. Two of my friends, Joe and Alison, were arrested after a video store was robbed. Only Joe broke into the store, Alison just sat in the car and kept a look out. How come Alison is in trouble too?
A. Alison helped Joe commit the robbery. It is a crime to help someone else commit a crime.
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6. A couple of girls beat me up and stole my money. I was off school for a month and I'm still afraid to go out alone even though they were caught and charged. Someone at the court said I could make a Victim Impact Statement. What's that?
A. A Victim Impact Statement is a written statement in which you would describe, in your own words, how the crime has affected you. It is your chance to be heard. If you write a Victim Impact Statement, the judge would have to consider it when deciding what an appropriate sentence would be.
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7. A friend asked me to look after his new DVD player. I think it might be stolen but I don't want to let him down. Can I get into trouble?
A. Yes, you could get into trouble. It is a crime to keep ('possess') stolen goods, even if you are just holding the stolen items for someone else.
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8. I was convicted of assault. The guy I hit didn’t even have any bruises. Will I have a criminal record forever?
A. No, but the rules about youth criminal records are complicated. You should speak with your lawyer to make sure you understand how long your record will last.

The length of time you will have a record depends mainly on whether the crime was minor or serious, and on the sentence you got. For example, if you were found guilty of a minor offence (called a ‘summary’ conviction offence) for the assault, then your record will be destroyed 3 years after you finish your sentence, as long as you don’t commit another offence during that time. If you were found guilty of a more serious offence (called an ‘indictable’ offence), then your record will be destroyed 5 years after you finish your sentence, as long as you don’t commit another offence during that time.
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9. My dad said if I got into trouble with the police he’d ‘kill’ me. I got caught shoplifting. Will my dad find out?
A. Your dad might find out. If the police just gave you a warning then they would not be required to tell your dad. Otherwise, if you are charged with an offence (‘theft under $5000’), or if the police decide to take more formal steps (called ‘extrajudicial sanctions’), then your dad would have to be notified.
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10. Some kids broke into my house, wrote stuff on the walls and stole some CDs and mom’s jewelry. The police caught them. We’ve been asked to participate in a Restorative Justice Program. What’s that?
A. Restorative Justice is a community-based alternative to the court process. It is designed to hold offenders accountable for their crimes in a more meaningful way, and to give offenders an opportunity to repair the harm caused by the crime. Victims are active participants in this process. Restorative justice can take many forms, but it generally involves a face-to-face meeting between the victim and offender, and members of the community. The victim and offender are each given a chance to explain how the crime has affected them, and at the conclusion of the meeting an agreement would be reached about how the offender would repair the harm done. Reparation can include monetary payment, providing a service to the victim, performing community service, or any other agreed upon measure.
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11. I have to go to court because I stole some money from a kid’s locker at school. Will I be on T.V.?
A. No. The basic rule under the Youth Criminal Justice Act is that no one is allowed to publish identifying information or the name of a young person who is in trouble with the law. There are only a few exceptions to this basic rule.
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