When young people ages 12 to 17 are accused of a crime, the law provides ways they can be held accountable without putting them through the traditional court process. An extrajudicial sanction is one of these ways.
Extrajudicial Sanctions: Repairing the Harm Caused
Extrajudicial means outside the court. An extrajudicial sanction is something teenagers must do to make up for their crimes without going through a traditional court process.
An extrajudicial sanction gives teenagers a chance to repair the harm they caused the victim, if any. The victim has a say in the sanction the teen gets.
For example, a teenager might have to send the victim a written apology or take part in a mediation session with the victim. A mediation session is a meeting the teen has with the victim. Each person can talk about what happened and decide what the teenager can do, if anything, to make up for the harm caused.
What if there was no direct victim or the victim wants nothing to do with the teenager? In that case, the teen could be asked to give back to the community by doing up to 120 hours of community service.
Or the teenager might have to take part in a program that makes him think about the harm he caused.
Who Decides and How?
Different people will study a teenager’s case to decide whether an extrajudicial sanction is the best option. Here is the process:
1. The prosecutor studies the file
The prosecutor is a government lawyer who brings criminal cases to court against people accused of crimes. The prosecutor is officially called a criminal and penal prosecuting attorney.
The prosecutor will study the teenager’s police file. She will decide whether there is enough proof to take the case further. Depending on how serious the crime is, the prosecutor can do these things:
- officially accuse the teenager of one or more crimes
- send the teen’s case to a youth worker
Important! A teenager might have to go in front of a judge before his case is sent to a youth worker. This is called an appearance. The appearance is not a trial.
2. The youth worker decides whether an extrajudicial sanction is the best option
Youth workers are professionals who work with teenagers accused of a crime. They work in youth centres. They decide whether teenagers should get an extrajudicial sanction. A teenager might have to meet with a youth worker. The teen’s parents can go with him.
The youth worker studies the teenager’s case. Before deciding whether to give an extrajudicial sanction, the youth worker has to be sure of these things:
- The teenager admits to committing the crime. A teen cannot get an extrajudicial sanction if he says he’s innocent.
- The teenager agrees to get an extrajudicial sanction. The teen must agree freely. This means he must fully understand what it means to get an extrajudicial sanction. And he must not feel forced or pressured to agree.
- The teenager was told that he has the right to a lawyer.
- The teenager was given the chance to speak with a lawyer before he agreed to the sanction.
If the youth worker thinks that an extrajudicial sanction is the best way to deal with the case, the teenager’s file will be transferred to an Organisme de justice alternative or OJA (alternative justice organization). This is a community organization that works with teenagers accused of crimes, as well as with victims of crimes.
3. An OJA will help the teenager through the process.
OJAs help teenagers who get extrajudicial sanctions. A professional will meet with the teenager to explain what he has to do. The teen’s parents can go with him to the meeting.
Important! If the teenager decides not to complete a extrajudicial sanction, he might have to go through a traditional court process and get a punishment, called a sentence.
After the Harm is Repaired
A teenager’s case will be over once he completes the extrajudicial sanction. The teen will not have to go through a traditional court process.
- If the teenager received a notice to appear or similar document and appeared in front of a judge (an appearance), the teen or his lawyer will have to go back to court to ask that the court case be closed (dismissed). The teenager can also ask the police department to destroy his fingerprints. A lawyer can help with this.
- If the judge gave the teenager specific conditions (orders), the teen must continue to obey them until the court dismisses the case.
Will the Teenager Have a Record?
Yes, information about the teen will be kept in a few places.
The police, the prosecutor, the youth centre and the OJA will keep information about the teenager, the crime and the extrajudicial sanction received.
Some people will be able to see this information for two years. The information can be used if the teenager is accused of another crime.