Criminal Law

The impact of arrest on a young person's future

By John Navarrete

“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference” – Aristotle

Even over two thousand years later, Aristotle’s words ring true. While society’s younger members often make mistakes that are attributed to lack of life experience, the foundation that they lay early on can have a significant impact on the rest of their life.

The effects of an early arrest

When it comes to pursuing four-year post-secondary education and reaping the benefits often associated with an advanced degree, young people who have had experience with the criminal justice system are shown to be far less likely to benefit. A study examining the correlation between arrest during high school and admission to a post-secondary institution found that when it comes to young people committing a crime, the effects can linger well into adulthood.

The problems associated with being arrested as an adolescent often begins while the individual is still in high school. The study indicated that socially, peers may exclude another student based on the stigma of the arrest. Teachers and other faculty members may willingly or unwillingly perceive the student as being a “poor investment” and choose not to focus their attention on their educational needs.

A permanent negative impact

According to surveys completed by post-secondary admissions officers, two thirds would consider denying admission to a student who had been convicted of marijuana distribution and half would do the same if the student had been arrested. When comparing equivalent groups of young people using propensity score matching, the group who had not been arrested demonstrated a significantly higher rate of enrollment in a four-year post-secondary program.

Regardless of whether a crime can be attributed to a youthful mistake or not, the impact of an arrest during the teenage years can yield long-term consequences. Given how high the stakes are, it is critical for young people and their families to work alongside a legal team who is well-versed in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. When a young person’s future is on the line, having skilled support is imperative.

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