Right to a Lawyer
The right to a lawyer has special recognition and protection in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Police, Crown counsel and judges must ensure youth are told and understand they have a right to talk to lawyer. This information must be provided at many stages in the youth justice process, including:
- When you are arrested or detained
- Before you choose to make a statement to police and while being questioned by police
- When considering whether to agree to an extrajudicial sanctions
- At any court appearance
In B.C., Legal Aid BC (formerly the Legal Services Society) provides legal services to youth charged with a crime. Regardless of your or your parent’s income, a lawyer will be appointed for you at no cost.
Your lawyer takes direction from you. You and your lawyer are responsible for deciding how you are going to proceed in court, even if your parent/guardian disagrees. If your parents provide you with a lawyer you don’t agree with, you have the right to have your own lawyer appointed by the court.
You should speak to a lawyer before talking to police. Anything you say to police could be used against you if you go to court.
A lawyer can help protect your rights in several ways. Some include:
- Helping tell your side of the story to police, Crown counsel or the court
- Helping you decide to tell the court whether you are guilty or not guilty
- Explaining how extrajudicial sanctions (alternatives to court) work and helping you decide whether to agree to them
- Representing you at your bail hearing, trial and sentencing hearings, including reviews of sentence
Visit Legal Aid BC for information on how to contact a lawyer.