Most scientists agree that the human brain is fully developed by age 25. The reward-risk portion of the brain is one of the last parts to mature. So, for example, kids under 25 can see the minimal immediate rewards of drug use, but they cannot appreciate the much-larger risks of drug use.
Probably not coincidentally, age 25 is also the cutoff for Michigan’s version of the second-chance program, the rather oddly-named Holmes Youthful Offenders Trainee Act. In many jurisdictions, second-chance laws are limited at best. But most criminal defendants in Michigan between 18 and 25 qualify for this program. As outlined below, some restrictions apply.
HYTA probation, or any other form of probation, is not for everyone. That’s especially true for youthful offenders who are probably in criminal court because they cannot make good choices. However, although there are some risks, the rewards are significant. A Wayne County defense lawyer can minimize the risks and maximize the rewards. At this point in the criminal justice process, that’s probably the best possible outcome.
As mentioned, the maximum age range for HYTA probation is 18 to 25. However, if the defendant is over 21, a prosecutor must consent. Politics and victims’ rights are usually the two biggest variables in these prosecutorial consent matters. Some district attorneys oppose HYTA probation in violent criminal cases as a matter of policy. The facts of the case don’t matter. Additionally, if the victim does not want the defendant to get a second chance, for whatever reason, prosecutors usually honor that request.
For defendants between 18 and 21, HYTA probation is usually between the defendant and the judge. Michigan judges may reject these petitions for almost any reason, however. So, meeting the minimum qualifications is usually insufficient. To increase the chances of success, a Wayne County defense lawyer often has the defendant perform some additional community service or otherwise show further remorse for the crime.
HYTA probation is usually a sentencing matter. Pointing our extenuating circumstances, like “I was drunk” or “My friends dared me,” often backfires. Many judges see such arguments as evidence of non-remorse.
On a related note, if the defendant was under 18, the juvenile records-sealing process usually applies. Typically, judges seal records upon request in these cases.
As mentioned, most defendants qualify for relief under Michigan’s HYTA law, provided they are in the required age range. But the statute does exclude a few offenses, such as:
- Felony drug cases,
- Most criminal sexual offenses,
- Life imprisonment felonies.
That’s a pretty short list, which is good news for defendants. Additionally, the offenses on this list all have lesser included offenses. For example, a Wayne County defense lawyer could plead a DUI down to OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired), a felony drug matter to a misdemeanor, or a contact sexual offense to a non-contact offense like indecent exposure.
Charge reduction pleas are often delicate matters, mostly because of the victims’ rights and political variables discussed above. So, there could be some give-and-take. For example, prosecutors might agree to drop a DUI to an OWVI if the defendant agrees to use an Ignition Interlock Device.
Nuts And Bolts Of HYTA Probation, Including Firearms Ownership
During the sentencing portion of an HYTA probation case, the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, and the judge accepts that plea. But the judge does not legally find the defendant guilty. Instead, the judge defers that portion of the sentencing hearing until the probation period is complete. At that point, if the defendant has successfully completed probation, which is different from perfectly completing probation, the judge dismisses the case.
Probation length varies significantly, but it is normally about nine months for most misdemeanors and three years for most felonies. During this time, defendants must comply with certain conditions, such as:
- Reporting to a probation officer,
- Remaining in the county, or in a designated area,
- Avoiding “injurious” people, places, or habits.
- Paying supervision fees, fines, and court costs,
- Staying out of trouble with the law,
- Working or attending school full time, and
- Completing court-ordered requirements, like performing community service, attending a victim impact panel, paying restitution, or obtaining a substance abuse evaluation.
Technically, the probation officer could forward a probation revocation matter to prosecutors over any infraction. However, most probation revocation matters involve new offenses or a failure to report.
If a revocation matter goes to court, a Wayne County criminal defense attorney has several options. The defendant could fight the matter, but the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, revocation matters are relatively easy to establish in court. Plea options include serving a few days in jail as a condition of reinstatement, extending the term, or changing the rules.
If the defendant completes HYTA probation and the judge dismisses the matter, under Michigan law, the defendant cannot “suffer any loss of right or privilege.” That’s a broad statement that includes firearms ownership and a license to carry a concealed weapon. Michigan is a “shall issue” state, which means that if applicants meet the minimum qualifications, authorities shall issue (must issue) a permit. However, a few exceptions apply.
Finally, HYTA probation includes a provision for record sealing, a unique benefit to Michigan.
When judges seal records, most people cannot access them. Only the courts, law enforcement, and a few state agencies, mostly licensing agencies, can view these records.
A guilty plea does not stain a permanent record for most youthful offenders. For a free consultation with an experienced Wayne County criminal defense lawyer, contact George Law. After-hours, home, virtual, and jail visits are available.
Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer
To learn more about HYTA probation, discharge, and the legalities of firearm ownership, speak with a criminal defense attorney today. George Law’s experienced criminal defense attorneys will carefully evaluate your circumstances and advise you on the next steps. Reach out to a George Law attorney by calling (248) 470-4300 or contacting us online.