Understanding Canadian Criminal Law

Sealing Canadian Youth Court Criminal Records

young offender arrest

It is a common misconception that a Canadian criminal record acquired while a person is under the age of 18 years old will be sealed as soon as the youth turns 18.  In fact, a youth court criminal record may continue to exist well beyond the age of 18 years and on occasion can remain open and accessible to the public indefinitely. The following article attempts to outline the circumstances surrounding when a youth record becomes permanently sealed. For more information on youth court cases, please read my article on “Young Offender Cases

Frequently asked questions about sealing youth records:

When does someone receive a youth record?

A youth record can arise for anyone between the ages of 12 and 17 years old charged or convicted of a criminal offence in Canada.

Will a youth have a record if the charge is withdrawn?

If a youth charged with a criminal offence has their charges withdrawn or if they are given a judicial reprimand, the criminal record will remain open and accessible to both the public and police for two months after the decision.

Even if the youth is acquitted after a trial (found not guilty), the youth record will last for two months after the end of the time allowed for an appeal (normally 30 days after the acquittal). Or, if an appeal is heard, three months after all appeals have been decided.

How long will it take a youth found guilty of a crime to have their criminal record sealed?

Absolute discharge:

If the youth is found guilty but sentenced to an “absolute discharge”, the record will remain accessible for one year after the sentence is imposed.

Conditional discharge

If the youth is sentenced to a “conditional discharge”, the record will remain accessible for three years after the sentence is imposed.

Other summary conviction offences

A youth found guilty of a summary conviction offence who received a sentence other than an absolute or conditional discharge (such as a suspended sentence or fine) will have their record accessible for a period of three years commencing when the youth completes their entire sentence, including any term of probation.

Indictable offences

Lastly, a youth found guilty of an indictable offence will have their record open and accessible for at least five years after their sentence and probation term is finished. In some instances, the record can sometimes remain open to the police and the prosecutor for 10 years or more. This can happen if the crime committed by the youth was a serious sexual or violent crime in which a weapon was used or the victim was injured.

Extra judicial sanctions

On many occasions, a youth may be offered an opportunity to participate in “extra-judicial sanctions” (EJS) as a way to avoid having their matter proceed to trial. Participating in EJS programs such as volunteer work or counselling means that that upon successfully completing the EJS program, the youth’s charge(s) will be withdrawn.

A youth who received EJS will have a police record showing that they participated in EJS for two years from the time the youth agreed to enter the EJS program.

What will cause a youth record to remain open beyond the access period?

A youth who commits another crime as a youth before their record is closed will result in the prior record remaining open for longer.

If a youth has an open youth record, and they are found guilty of another crime before they turn 18, the record for the first offence won’t be closed until it is time to close the record for the later offence.

What will cause a youth court record to remain open indefinitely?

If a person with an open youth record is found guilty of another crime after they turned 18, the youth record will remain open indefinitely. This means that police and other government agencies will be able to access both the youth and adult records at any time.

Can a closed youth court record be re-opened again?

Once a youth record is closed, the law considers the youth to have never committed the offence. This means the youth record cannot be accessed nor its contents to anyone else. It becomes permanently sealed.

As you can see, the idea that a youth record is automatically sealed to the public upon attaining the age of 18 is myth. It is therefore, extremely important to consult with a criminal lawyer with experience in youth cases to ensure that a youthful mistake doesnt become a barrier to ones future travel plans or employment opportunities.

11 thoughts on “Sealing Canadian Youth Court Criminal Records”

  1. Further to this, I have a question. I’m 51. I was convicted (only once) of shoplifting when I was 17, in 1979 (before current laws came into effect). No further criminal record. Should my record be closed?

  2. i have been charged with 2 indictable offences. one was when I was 12 and one was when I was 17 . The victims were not ever hurt . Will my record be sealed 5 years after my sentencing period ?

  3. I was charged at 16 for underage drinking(18 years ago now) my parents took me back to my province and court was missed. I was also in trouble at 17 and attended court and completed alternative measures for that charge. Can I still be charged at adult age for missing court at 16??

    1. Being charged with underage drinking is not a criminal offence. If you failed to attend court it is possible that the trial proceeded in your absence (akin to failing to attend a traffic court trial) and there would not be a further penal consequence to missing your court date. In any event, you cannot be charged as an adult for a crime committed in your youth regardless of when the charges come to light.

  4. It’s been two years since I finished my extrajudicial sanctions, does that mean my record will get automatically sealed or do I have to go to the police station and personally request for it to get sealed?

  5. I shoplifted when I was 17, and was charged with theft under 5000, I was referred to the Youth justice committee and completed community service, and a month later the charge was withdrawn.
    Does my record get sealed two months after the charge was withdrawn or two years?

    1. It sounds as though you completed an extra judicial sanctions program. This disposition will cause your record to remain open for a period of two years following the withdrawal of the charge.

      1. If the charge was withdrawn, and it hasn’t passed the two years, is travelling out of the question? Such as into Europe from Canada?

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