Lesson 3: Legal Rights for Youth


Grade Level



2-3 periods; the lesson length will depend on which topics you choose to focus on

Lesson Plan (PDF)


The purpose of having a special law for young offenders is to prevent crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person’s offending behaviour, to rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them into society, and to ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for his or her offence.

Several recent court decisions have underlined the importance of youth understanding their rights and responsibilities. For example, judges have dismissed cases where youth charged with offences were shown not to have been adequately informed of their rights. This lesson will provide a brief introduction to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). It will also cover the rights and responsibilities that youth have in different situations. 


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe youth rights and responsibilities when a youth is arrested
  • Describe youth rights and responsibilities if stopped by the police when driving
  • Describe procedures when a youth is taken to the police station following arrest
  • Describe the purpose and process of  using extrajudicial measures
  • Explain procedures concerning searches on school premises
  • Explain particular considerations for Aboriginal youth at sentencing
  • Describe the impact of a youth record upon travel, especially across the U.S. border

Focus Questions

  1. What are youth rights and responsibilities when stopped or arrested?
  2. What rights do youth have when they are in a car?
  3. What is the purpose and process of using extrajudicial measures?
  4. What is the law with regard to searching bags and lockers of students?
  5. What special considerations do Aboriginal youth in regard to sentencing?
  6. What is the impact of a youth record upon travel?

Teaching Summary

Topic 1: Introduction to the YCJA

Topic 2: Street Freedoms

Topic 3: You Are Under Arrest

Topic 4: Your Rights in a Car

Topic 5: When You Are Taken Into Custody

Topic 6: Extrajudicial Measures

Topic 7: Don't Look in my Locker

Topic 8: Aboriginal Youth and Sentencing

Topic 9: At the Border

For this lesson, it is important that the activity for Topic 1 precedes the other activities as it provides a background for Topics 2-9. This lesson is lengthy if you choose to cover all of the topics and complete all activities. For this reason, you may wish to select some topics and/or omit some activities. 

Students will view 8 videos on the topic of legal rights and will participate in discussions about the specific videos.  The topics include being stopped, detained or arrested by police, rights if you are driving a car or are a passenger in a car, extrajudicial measures, rights of search and seizure at school, special considerations for Aboriginal youth when sentenced and what may happen if you have a record and you are travelling to another country.

Handout 1: What Should You Know About the Youth Criminal Justice Act? is a brief introduction to the YCJA and Handout 2: Legal Rights for Youth is a summary of the rights that are discussed in all the activities. Role-play exercises are also included in the lesson.