Lesson 7: Youth Criminal Justice Act - Sentencing and Records

Topic 5: Youth and Adult Records

Youth and Adult Records

This section is taken from information in Sections 77, 78, 117, 119(2), 120(3)(b) and 128 of the YCJA. A youth record is a record of the young offender’s involvement with the criminal justice system as a youth. It includes findings of guilt for crimes and any extrajudicial measures that have been used.

Who can Keep Records of a Young Offender’s Criminal History?

The following may keep records:

  • A review board or any level of court may keep records of any case it deals with
  • Police, including the RCMP, may keep records of any crime alleged to have been committed by a youth
  • The police force responsible for a particular investigation
  • A person or organization may keep records of extrajudicial measures or records for managing youth justice
  • The government

Having a youth record may limit choices for:

  • Travel to foreign countries
  • Recreation
  • Sport
  • Work
  • College or university

The youth record may stay open for up to five years or more after the young offender has completed a sentence. If another crime is committed within that time, then the first crime can be brought up in court - especially during sentencing - and the record can stay open for longer.People who may get information about the record include:

  • Young offender (at any time)
  • The police officer
  • The Crown prosecutor
  • The youth worker
  • The judge
  • The victim
  • Young offender’s parent(s) or guardian(s) (at any time)
  • Young offender’s lawyer (at any time)
  • The attorney general of the province
  • The director of a correctional facility

Schools may get your records only if it:

  • Will help youth comply with the order of the court
  • Will ensure the safety of staff or students
  • Will help youth with their rehabilitation

Periods of access to the records vary. They are set out in Section 119(2) of the YCJA. A record of extrajudiciial measures will be closed after two years if the young offender does not commit another crime during that period. If, however, another crime is committed within the two years, the record could stay open. The time could start again from the date the new sentence ends, or from the date the youth agreed to participate in another extrajudicial sanction.

When are Youth Records Destroyed?

  • If there are no more crimes, the record is destroyed at the end of the "access period."
  • Generally, the access period lasts between three to five years after youth complete a sentence.
  • The number of years depends on the seriousness of the crime and the sentence youth receive.
  • If it is a serious crime, it will be five years or more.
  • If it is a summary conviction crime, the record is destroyed in three years. A summary conviction includes most minor offences in the Criminal Code. Unless a different penalty is specified, summary conviction offences are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 or six months in jail or both.
  • If probation was part of the sentence, the access period runs from the end of the probation period.

Can a Youth Record Turn into an Adult Record?

The youth record is not automatically destroyed when the young offender turns 18. When his or her record is destroyed depends on the sentence, how serious the crime is, and whether s/he commits more crimes before the required access period ends. If another crime is committed after the youth turns 18 and while his or her youth record is still open, the record might become part of his or her adult record. It is then subject to the adult record provisions. If youth get an adult sentence for a very serious crime, their record is treated as an adult record. Adult records stay open for life, unless a pardon is granted.

Once the youth record is closed, it is either destroyed or sent to the National Archives of Canada or the provincial archives for storage. Records that are stored can be used for certain things such as research and statistics. They cannot identify the young offender.

Did You Know?

  • It is a crime to not complete a sentence. If youth don’t finish the sentence they were given in court, they can be charged with another crime called a breach. For example, if the young offender has been ordered not to contact a co-accused and is found in his or her company, s/he is breaching the sentence. A finding of guilt on this new charge extends the time that the youth record stays open.
  • Notices given to youth by the police or the court such as an Appearance Notice, Promise to Appear or a Recognizance mean that they must appear in court on a certain date. If they do not, they are committing a new crime called "failing to appear." Being found guilty of this extends the time that their youth record is open.
  • A potential boss can ask youth to go to the police and prove that they have no record. The police will give youth a copy of their own record. Youth can then give this record to their boss. Teachers are asked to do this before they can teach students.
  • Other countries do not have access to the youth record except in very limited circumstances. However, if another country does obtain the information, they may decide to keep it in their files well after the end of the access period. Only in Canada does the youth record have to be closed after a certain time. Any record, no matter how minor the offence, can keep someone from getting into other countries.
    • For example, in the United States, it is often up to the individual border guard to decide whether youth get in. If youth have a youth record and it has been shared with the U.S., it is impossible to know when they might be refused entry. The U.S. is one of the countries where youth may need a travel waiver to enter if they have a record. It is best to verify with the immigration office of the country before visiting.


  • A youth record includes the criminal history of offences and extrajudicial sanctions
  • Courts, review boards, people dealing with youth and the police can keep a youth record
  • A youth record can have consequences regarding schooling, travel and employment
  • A youth record will usually be open from 3-5 years after a sentence for an offence is complete
  • A youth record can be used in court during the sentencing process
  • The police, the prosecutor, a youth worker, the judge, the victim, the youth, the parents or guardians, the youth’s lawyer, the Attorney-General of the province, the director of a correctional facility, and the youth’s school may have access to information about the youth, depending on why the information is being sought
  • Periods of access to youth records vary, depending on the record, the severity of the offence, the sentence imposed and the youth’s subsequent behaviour
  • A record created from extrajudicial measures will be closed after two years if the youth does not commit another offence during that period
  • Youth records are not automatically destroyed when the youth turns 18
  • If a further offence is committed within the access period and after the youth turns 18, the youth record may be attached to the adult record and will be subject to the adult record provisions
  • If the youth is given an adult sentence for a very serious crime, his or her record is treated as an adult record
  • Adult records remain open for life, unless the person receives a pardon
  • If there are no further offences following a sentence, then the youth record will be destroyed at the end of the access period, generally 3-5 years after the sentence
  • Once a youth record is closed, it is either destroyed or sent to the National Archives of Canada or the Provincial Archives to be stored