Youthful Offender Adjudication
Criminal Procedure Law has a specific definition of a “youth.” By law, a “youth” is considered to be any individual charged with a crime that they are alleged to have committed when they were of the age of either sixteen or seventeen. The definition of a “youth” is a vital component of any child prosecution. Children of ages sixteen and seventeen typically undergo prosecutions that are very similar to adult trials. The court proceedings are undergone in an adult courthouse and tried by the same District Attorney’s office that tries adults.
With that said, depending on the crime and the circumstances, children of this age will sometimes be given judicial options that consider their youth and alleviate the burden of a permanent criminal record. This is to help keep young people from having their lives potentially ruined and their record forever stained by mistakes they made in their adolescence. When this type of option is invoked, it’s called adjudication.
Should a sixteen or seventeen year old meet the eligibility requirements, they might receive a sentence that labels them as an “adjudicated youthful offender” rather than a convicted offender. There are several important ramifications to the use of this language. The biggest one is that this is not technically a criminal conviction. Children who have been adjudicated can truthfully say on resumes and other questionnaires that they have never received a conviction of a crime. This can help keep the child’s educational and job prospects from being ruined.
Another important note is that adjudication records go through an automatic sealing process. They are not publicly available. Certain private departments and agencies will still have access to the records, however. Sealing your childhood records helps to keep a permanent criminal record from following you around. It’s a measure undertaken to help prevent a child from losing their entire future prospects because they made a foolish mistake. If your criminal defense lawyer aims to secure an adjudication instead of a conviction, it can help preserve your future.
There are complicated regulations and rules regarding Youth Offender status. It’s easy to get confused. If a child has been convicted of a misdemeanor without having any previous criminal convictions or Youthful Offender status, they will automatically receive an adjudication as a Youthful Offender. However, if the crime was a felony rather than a misdemeanor, the judge is allowed to use their discretion about whether the child should be given YO status.
For children of the ages of sixteen and seventeen who are facing felony charges, an effective criminal defense lawyer is vital. If you have prior YO status regarding a misdemeanor, and then you commit a felony, you will not automatically be ineligible for YO status. However, if you have prior YO status regarding a felony, you will automatically be ineligible for YO status on the new felony.
There are some limits to the benefits of a YO adjudication, especially if the case records are still available to the public. Any educational institution, nonprofit, or potential employer could access the case file and read about the details. They may decide that there isn’t enough technical difference between a YO adjudication and a criminal conviction.
If the criminal case has an outcome that’s favorable for the child, the law allows for the entire case file to be sealed away. You can also get authorization to have palmprints, fingerprints, photographs, mugshots, and any copies of the proceedings destroyed. Favorable outcomes tend to be acquittals following a trial, a dismissal of the charges, or a dismissal following an adjournment. If a person receives a youthful offender adjudication for unlawfully possessing marijuana, they can get their records sealed or destroyed once three years have passed since the event.
The protections that are available through a YO adjudication can have a significant impact on a child’s future. If you’re a youth who’s been accused of a crime, or you’re the parent of a youth who’s been accused of a crime, it’s vital to look for a skilled defense attorney. You can talk to them about the rules and regulations regarding YO adjudication and whether you’re a good candidate. If you are, then your lawyer can help you understand the steps you need to take to prove to the judge that you’re worth the fresh start.
Some youthful offenders may be charged with crimes that are only illegal because of the perpetrator’s age. Criminal charges of this type include:
- running from home
- repeatedly skipping school
- violating town curfew
- using tobacco, alcohol, and any other age-restricted substances
- acting outside the control of their guardians
Sometimes parents involve law enforcement because they’re not sure what else to do. These kids need to have someone in their corner, and they shouldn’t lose their whole futures because of unhappy mistakes in adolescence.