HYTA is a liberally construed remedial statute intended by the legislature to avoid stigmatizing youth in the target age group with a criminal record for, "unreflective and immature acts." A judge has very broad discretion in whether to apply the Act. The notion behind the statute is to provide a "second chance" for youthful offenders. In this day and age of accessible electronic information, the legislature has recognized that even misdemeanor convictions can easily be picked up by potential employers. Otherwise law-abiding young citizens can have their employment prospects decimated by a single youthful indiscretion. Therefore, the legislature long ago passed HYTA to provide this opportunity for a youth to earn dismissal of a criminal charge by successfully completing a period of probation.
Who Qualifies for HYTA Status?
Any youth that commits a crime after her 17th birthday, but before her 21st birthday would qualify, depending on the charge brought by the prosecutor. Although the Act does not preclude multiple uses of HYTA status, most judges have exercised their discretion in HYTA application to allow for a single use of the statute. Sometimes, however, a youthful offender will have already received a deferral. For example, most judges will take a plea for an MIP (minor in possession) under a deferred sentence, and dismiss the case following probation, as provided in the MIP statute. Such a person would still be eligible for HYTA.
Not all convictions are HYTA eligible. Capital offenses, for example, like criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, or murder, do not qualify. Nor do drunk driving convictions, or even driving while your license is suspended.
Your HYTA Status Can Be Revoked
Be careful, if you violate your probation while on HYTA, depending on the circumstances, many judges will revoke your HYTA status at a probation hearing.
HYTA is not accorded to youthful offenders as a right; the status lies within the sound discretion of the sentencing judge. What the judge grants, the judge can take away.
There is nothing that disturbs a judge more than an offender, who has already received a break in the form of a sentence under HYTA, who returns to court having to explain a probation violation (i.e. drinking alcohol, or new criminal activity).
Successfully Completed Probation
When a convicted youthful offender completes her probation without incident, the judge will dismiss all charges if sentenced under HYTA. This person will not have a conviction on her criminal record. In addition, a public search of this individual will not disclose this now-dismissed plea. This is because a plea taken under HYTA does not count as a conviction.
If the youthful offender re-offends after completion of HYTA probation, the earlier charge will appear to the prosecutor and the court. It will be known that this person did take advantage of HYTA on the prior charge. Most judges will not allow a person to plea under HYTA twice.
Additional resources provided by the author
If you are age-qualified, and charged with a crime, the best step is to secure qualified legal counsel that can assist you prior to your court appearances.
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