Our criminal justice system offers young offenders, those who break the law, a chance through alternative punishments and sealed records.
For example, say you are 21 years old or younger and through some bad decisions, or just bad luck, the police arrest you for a crime. Now being the smart young person you are, you decide to hire a criminal defense attorney to advise you on your rights. Of course, every case is different. Every case has unique qualities and circumstances. For the sake of argument, let’s say that in your case you have the option to either plead guilty or not guilty and also the possibility of a trial by jury.
These seem like good options, right? Well, they very well might be, but there are pros and cons to everything. Even if you believe deeply that this is all a misunderstanding and that you are innocent, there is still a possibility that a jury does not see it that way.
What does that mean?
Without Y.O Status you could go through a potentially long process and end up being found guilty. This means possible jail time, fines, and a permanent mark on your criminal record. This can take away years of your freedom and deprive you of extensive future opportunities. What if you could avoid all of this? What if this incident was a wake up call and you don’t want to be constantly reliving this moment for the rest of your life; when you apply to jobs, loans, college, anything…
Well, that’s where youthful offender status comes in. If you are under 21 years of age and find yourself dealing with some troublesome legal charges you might be able to receive Youthful Offender status (Y.O. status).
What can Youthful Offender Status do?
To receive this status the judge all must agree that a young person is a good fit. This means that you’ll probably need a lawyer by your side helping convince all the parties involved. A seasoned criminal defense attorney can put together compelling arguments for why you should be treated as a youthful offender. If Youthful Offender is granted you forfeit your right to a trial by jury. A bench trial is still a possibility if you decide to maintain your innocence and the prosecutor refuses to dismiss the case. In general, one of the biggest benefits of this is the fact that punishments are capped at three years and you are ‘adjudicated.’
First, the maximum time served cannot exceed 3 years. And, probation time, if ordered by a judge, also cannot exceed 3 years. Fines also cannot be greater than $1,000 unless directly authorized by law. All of these factors considered means that this status is something to think about carefully. On top of all of this the fact that you will not be a convicted felon. Adjudication, as part of the youthful offender process, means that even if you are found guilty or plead guilty you will not be a convicted felon. So, after your confinement, probation, and fines are all over, you will still be able to vote, possess a firearm, and will not be potentially burdened by the label of convicted felon.