The Court Decision - Information for an Accused Youth
As a youth accused of committing a crime, you are protected by the same rights as an adult. This includes being presumed innocent until proven guilty. For you to be proven guilty, Crown counsel has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of committing an offence.
Early in the process, you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced. If you plead not guilty, you will have a trial. A judge is in charge of the trial. At the trial, Crown counsel will call witnesses and present evidence. You and your lawyer may do that, too. You may also give evidence yourself, but you are not required to. After the Crown and defence present their cases and make their final arguments, it is time for the judge to decide if you are innocent or guilty.
At the end of the trial, the judge will make a decision called a judgment.
You might be found guilty, not guilty or acquitted or be granted a stay of proceedings. These terms are defined below.
- Found Not Guilty - This means the Crown has not proven to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime you were charged with. If you are found not guilty, the matter is concluded. No further consequences are imposed by the court.
- Acquittal - This is another term for being found not guilty of committing an offence.
- Stay of Proceedings – This means Crown counsel has dropped the charges against you, ending the prosecution. However, for a serious charge, they may re-start the prosecution within one year of the stay. For a less serious charge, Crown counsel may re-start the prosecution within six months of the incident that led to charges. If the prosecution is not re-started within those time frames, the matter is over.
- Found Guilty – This means the Crown has successfully proven to the judge, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you have committed the crime. A sentencing hearing may be held immediately or the judge may hold the sentencing hearing later. Sentencing hearings in cases involving youths are often held later so a pre-sentence report can be prepared.
Charges could also be dismissed after an appeal.
See Sentencing (How the Criminal Justice System Works) for more information about the court decision.