The law allows some young people accused of a crime to avoid going through the traditional court process. Police can decide to take “extrajudicial measures” when the accused is 12 to 17 years old.
Types of extrajudicial measures
Extrajudicial means outside the court. An extrajudicial measure is a way of holding teenagers accountable for their actions without going through the traditional court process.
When police stop a teenager, they decide whether an extrajudicial measure is the best way to deal with the teen’s case. If the police decide on an extrajudicial measure, the teenager will not have to go to court.
These are the extrajudicial measures police can take, depending on what the teenager has done:
- They can do nothing further. Doing nothing is still an extrajudicial measure.
- They can give the teenager a warning.
- They can refer the teenager to an Organisme de justice alternative or OJA (alternative justice organization).
If a teenager is stopped by the police, the police officer must tell the teen about these rights:
- the right to know why the officer stopped the teenager
- the right to talk to a lawyer
- the right to remain silent
The officer must also contact the teen’s parents to let them know what is happening.
Police keep information about the teenager
Even if the police decide to do nothing, they must record what happened in a database kept by the Centre des renseignements policiers du Québec (CRPQ or Quebec police information centre). This means that, for the next two years, police officers throughout Quebec will be able to see that the police stopped the teenager. Officers will also be able to see how the case was dealt with. If the teenager is accused of another crime, the police will know that an extrajudicial measure was taken against him in the past.
Referral to an Organisme de justice alternative (OJA)
An Organisme de justice alternative or OJA (alternative justice organization) is a community organization that works with teenagers accused of crimes and with victims of crimes.
If the police refer a teenager to an OJA, a professional who works at the OJA will contact the teen within a few weeks. The professional will recommend that the teenager take part in an activity or program that is meant to help him.
The teenager will usually have to go to information and awareness sessions. They last about two hours. The OJA will ask the parents to attend as well.
At the end of the activity, the teenager’s case will be over. He will not have to go to court.
What if the police decide not to take extrajudicial measures
The police might decide that extrajudicial measures are not the best way to deal with a teenager’s case. This could happen if the crime is very serious, or if the teen says he didn’t commit the crime.
In cases like this, the police will send the file to the prosecutor. This is a government lawyer who brings cases to court against people accused of crimes. Prosecutors are officially called criminal and penal prosecuting attorneys. The prosecutor will decide what will happen next.