There is a common misconception that a youth record kept under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) will automatically be destroyed once a young person reaches the age of 18 years. This is not the test for determining when a youth record might cease to exist. In fact, it is quite possible to find yourself in a situation where your youth record becomes permanent.
A youth record is basically a history of information kept either for a purpose stated in the YCJA or for investigating offences that could potentially be prosecuted under the YCJA. Youth records can contain a variety of information including a history of sentences, findings of guilt, charges, and even arrests.
Once a youth record is created, there is a period during which it can be accessed by certain prescribed individuals or parties. At this stage a youth record is considered ‘open’. Once the access period passes, the youth record is considered ‘closed’.
As an example, if a young person commits a second criminal offence before his record for his first is closed, this will increase the time period during which the original record will stay open. If the young person is under 18 at the time he commits the second offence, the record for the first offence will stay open for the same duration as the record for the second offence. If the young person is over 18 at the time the second offence is committed, then the record for the first offence (as a young person under the YCJA) becomes a permanent part of that person’s (now) adult record.
So when does a youth record go away, if at all?
If a young person is acquitted, or the charges are withdrawn or dismissed or the young person receives a reprimand (as defined under the YCJA) after being found guilty, then the youth record will be sealed or destroyed after two months. If a young person has a charge stayed or receives an absolute discharge, then the time period is one year. If the young person participates in an extrajudicial sanction (as defined in the YCJA), then the period is two years after the young person agreed to participate in the program. If a young person receives a conditional discharge, then the time period is three years from the date of being found guilty. For summary conviction offences where the sentence received is greater than a conditional discharge, the waiting period is three years after the sentence is completed. For an indictable offence, the waiting period is five years after the sentence is completed. If a young person is found ‘not guilty’ by reason of a mental disorder, then the record may stay open indefinitely. For certain serious offences such as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault or repeated violent offences, again the record may stay open indefinitely. For other types of serious violent offences, the youth record will stay open for an additional five years beyond the regular applicable period. If a young person receives an adult sentence, that youth record will become a permanent part of that young person’s adult record. Again, keep in mind that committing subsequent crimes either before or after the age of 18 will impact the period during which the original youth record stays open.
If a youth record becomes part of an adult record, then it will be necessary to apply for a Pardon.