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The Youthful Offender Act Provides Protection to Young Offenders

May 20, 2024

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The Miami criminal lawyers at DMT have seen a steady increase in the number of young defendants finding their way into the criminal justice system. More and more parents are seeking consultations regarding their children. Likewise, the number of arrests involving high school and college students is definitely on the rise, involving relatively minor offenses and offenses that are punishable by jail or prison time. Minor offenses such as underage drinking, drunk and disorderly conduct, and trespassing are easily handled and will have no or very limited impact on a young offenders' lives. Our attorneys have provided excellent representation, usually resulting in the dismissal of the charges.

Judge Abiding by the Florida Youthful Offender Act During the Court Process
On the other hand, some young offenders get themselves involved in serious crimes like aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and burglary to name a few. These are all felony offenses where there is a possibility that the state will attempt to gain a conviction with jail or prison time. Scary as that sounds, judges are given a ton of discretion with offenders under the age of 21. Trial court judges can sentence a "youthful offender" under the Florida Youthful Offender Act. The Act provides an alternate sentencing scheme that judges can use when sentencing defendants between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. The Act allows judges to circumvent the sentencing guidelines and minimum/mandatory sentences.

If the trial judge is willing, issues finding, he or she has the ability to deviate from adult sentences. The Youthful Offender Act caps sentences at six years. The maximum sentence which can be imposed by a judge is six years in prison. However, a judge can place a young offender on community or probation without any period or incarceration. A judge can also sentence a young offender to a withhold of adjudication instead of a conviction. That in and of itself will allow a defendant to keep his/her fundamental rights and improve opportunities of employment and education. Another benefit of the Act is that individuals sentenced under the Act are classified as "youthful offenders". Placement in institutions separate from the adult prison population, special rehabilitation programs, and the possibility of early release upon recommendation by the Department of Corrections are among the benefits.

Not everyone is eligible to be sentenced as a "youthful offender." Anyone previously sentenced under the Act or found guilty of a life felony, or capital offender leaves no discretion with the courts. If a defendant violates probation or community control, the six-year cap goes out the window and allows for sentencing under the original guidelines. The violation must be substantive, meaning that the probation or community control violation must be based on the commission of a "new and separate criminal act" by a youthful offender. After a substantive violation, a previously designated youthful offender may be sentenced above the six-year cap up to the statutory maximum for the underlying offenses.

Young Offender Sitting with Defense Attorney While Facing Maximum Sentence
Parents with children under the age of twenty-one involved in the criminal justice system should contact the criminal attorneys at DMT. Our criminal lawyers have years of experience dealing with cases involving "youthful offenders". Contact DMT as soon as possible so your rights are protected. The earlier an attorney is contacted, the more defensible the case will be. Remember, there are defenses to every case. Always speak to your lawyer before talking to anyone else about your case. Protect yourself and your case by always invoking your rights. Contact Donet, McMillan & Trontz at (305) 444-0030 for more information.
Categories: Juvenile Cases
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