I’m under 18 and charged with a crime. What are my rights?

3. Know about your right to a free lawyer

You have a right to a free lawyer in court for:

  • hearings
  • trials
  • hearings or other “” hearings
  • hearings related to your , for example a continuation of custody or a conditional supervision hearing
  • reviews

In these situations, a judge must make sure you have a lawyer if you want one. If you want a lawyer, the judge must give you enough time to find one.

Getting a lawyer through Legal Aid Ontario

If you cannot afford a lawyer, ask Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) for a certificate. You must show that you meet LAO's financial eligibility rules and your legal issue is one that LAO covers.

LAO has more coverage for young people who are Indigenous, experience mental health issues, or who are survivors of domestic violence. It's important that you tell LAO if you identify with any of these categories.

If you get a legal aid certificate, this means that LAO pays a lawyer to work for you.

Getting a lawyer through the judge

If LAO doesn't give you a certificate, you can ask the judge to order LAO to give you one. This is called a Section 25 order.

To get a Section 25 order, tell the youth court judge in the courtroom that you want a lawyer and that LAO has not given you a certificate. You could say, “Your Honour, I would like a Section 25 order so that I can get a lawyer.”

Some youth court judges will give you a Section 25 order for any type of court situation. Other youth court judges will only give you a Section 25 order if you're in a hearing where you have a right to a free lawyer. The judge usually gives you their decision right away.

Your relationship with your lawyer

Your lawyer should only take instructions from you, not from your parents or another adult.

Anything you tell your lawyer is confidential. This is called solicitor-client . Your lawyer cannot tell anyone anything you say without your permission. Not even a judge can force your lawyer to share that confidential information.

Solicitor-client privilege does not apply if you tell your lawyer that you have an immediate plan to go hurt someone or yourself. In that case, your lawyer may report that information.

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