Boys Will Be Boys: Youthful Offender Status in Alabama
Youthful Offender Status in Alabama
Phenix City Alabama Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Jones Discusses Youthful Offender Status
“Boys will be boys,” is an old cliche that we have all heard. It means that young people often engage in knucklehead-like behavior that they will later regret once they grow older. We all have these youthful indiscretions in our past, which is precisely why the Alabama legislature created the Youthful Offender Act (“YO”) back in the 1970s.
The Youthful Offender Act in Alabama is a, “manifestation of the legislature’s judgment that while persons are still young they may more readily and appropriately respond to methods of treatment which are more rehabilitative, more correctional and less severe than penalties to which adults are exposed. It is an extension, so to speak, of the protective juvenile process.” Ex Parte TB, 698 So.2d 127 (Ala. 1997). (As an aside, apparently, Georgia has a Youthful Offender provision that is somewhat obscure that allows Georgia youths between 17 and 25 to receive a rehabilitative sentence on the recommendation of the trial judge).
So if you have a young man or woman who engaged in some tomfoolery, ballyhoo, or other shenanigans, youthful offender may be an appropriate means of giving the young knucklehead a second chance. This may come in the form of a driving under the influence charge, a minor in possession charge, a shoplifting charge, or even a felony.
There are some important points to remember when considering whether to apply for Youthful Offender treatment.
(1) The Act Applies Only to Those Under 21
Youth is somewhat relative. In Alabama, only those under 21 may apply for Youthful Offender Status under Alabama Code 15-9-1 et seq.
(2) There is No Jury Trial in Youthful Offender Proceedings
One of the terms of receiving the benefits of Youthful Offender treatment is that you waive your right to a jury trial. Ala Code 15-9-4. Boo!
(3) The Judge Has Almost Absolute Discretion to Accept You Into Youthful Offender Treatment
The trial judge has near absolute discretion in determining whether a young defendant may proceed as a Youthful Offender. McClendon v. State, 341 So.2d 174 (Ala. Crim. App. 1976). See also Garrett v. State, 440 So. 2d 1151 (Ala. Crim App. 1983) (trial judge need not state reasons why YO treatment denied). However, the judge cannot automatically deny consideration of YO treatment merely on the nature of the charge alone. Garrett supra. In effect, this means it is almost impossible to obtain appellate review of the denial of a Youthful Offender application. The judge would have to be silly enough to state on the record that he/she denies YO in every case for a particular charge.
(4) The Youthful Offender Will Receive Significant Benefits if Adjudicated Under the Act
Significant benefits accrue to a defendant adjudicated as a Youthful Offender including:
- A sentence that cannot exceed three years;
- A sealed record upon adjudication of the case;
- No restriction on civil rights such as serving in public office, carrying a firearm, or voting
Youthful Offender is a very beneficial tool for the criminal defense attorney and a young person accused of a crime in Alabama. If the evidence against the young person is significant, serious consideration should be given to applying for YO treatment given the substantial benefits resulting from such treatment. However, know that you give up very significant rights along with your application, including the right to a jury trial. The application itself is totally in the judge’s hands, and it applies only to those defendants under the age of 21. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime for which Youthful Offender Treatment might benefit them, call the Law Offices of Mark P. Jones today for a free initial consultation.
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