Dismissal of Offenses by Juveniles – MCLA 762.11

Our juvenile defense attorneys in Michigan understand people make mistakes. This is especially true when we’re in our youth. Sometimes, those mistakes include ending up on the wrong side of the law.

The good news is MCLA Section 762.11 was specifically created to recognize that our youthful missteps need not define us. It provides a way for youthful offenders to avoid having a dark cloud of a criminal record plaguing them through adulthood.

Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA)

The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, more commonly referred to as the “HYTA,” was enacted as a way for criminal defendants (including some who have committed felonies) a way to have their records sealed.

It does have some strings attached, which is why our dedicated criminal defense lawyers in Grand Rapids will always fight first and foremost for a case to be dismissed on merit. But where the evidence is all but impossible to overcome, HYTA provides an excellent option for many young offenders.

However, there is no guarantee a defendant will be granted opportunity. It can only be granted after negotiation with the prosecutors. You should have an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney who knows the system and how HTYA works in the real world. Secondly, there are some crimes that do not qualify for reprieve under the HYTA.

MCLA Section 762.11 is designed for alleged criminal offenders in Michigan who are over the age of 17 at the time of the offense and under the age of 24.

As discussed in the Michigan Juvenile Justice Benchbook, there are various other mechanisms under which juvenile offenses are handled, and this can result in a sealed record as well. On the other hand, MCLA Section 762.11 is designed for young adults who have made a serious mistake at a young age, but are nonetheless considered adult offenders.

The statute provides that an individual who falls within in the requisite age range can enter a plea of guilty to the offense with which he or she was charged and consent to being given the status of “youthful trainee.”

Once on this status, defendant will not have a conviction entered and may be required to complete a term of probation, submit to regular or random drug screenings, work, attend school, or obtain a GED, or some other similar condition. If the youthful trainee completes the terms of probation in the time provided, the conviction will never be entered, and the offender’s record will be sealed. For most purposes, it will be as if this never happened. It is possible that the judge could require the youthful trainee to actually serve time in jail or prison as part of the terms of the agreement, but this is unlikely, given the nature of the statute.

However, if the defendant does not complete probation satisfactorily, the conviction will be entered, and the defendant will be sentenced accordingly. Since the defendant has already pleaded guilty to the offense, there is no trial, and there is no way to otherwise defend the case. The defendant’s attorney could still argue mitigating circumstances for a more favorable outcome.

Essentially, this statute was created to give defendant the opportunity to have a second chance, if they are young enough to qualify. However, the law is not designed to provide a third chance.

Defendant Between Age 21 and 24

In cases where the defendant is between the ages of 17 and 21, the prosecutor is not required to consent to defendant being granted youthful offender treatment. In many cases, defendant’s attorney and the prosecuting attorney will agree to all terms of the plea and present that to the judge. In other cases, the parties will agree to plead guilty, and the prosecutor may agree to cap his or her sentencing allocution (recommendation) to a certain threshold. If there is a disagreement, it is up to the judge to choose to follow defendant’s recommendation or prosecutor’s recommendation. In many cases, a judge will choose a remedy somewhere in the middle. These cases can involve the prosecutor arguing against imposition of a sentence under HYTA, while the criminal defense lawyer will argue for such a sentence pursuant to HYTA. It will be up to the judge to decide.

The best thing a defendant can do is to speak with a Michigan criminal defense attorney who regularly practices before the same judges and has a good idea as to what the judge is likely to do in terms of imposition of a HYTA sentence. Some judges will be very liberal in granting an HYTA sentence to a youthful offender, and others will not, unless they see the offense as something childlike, such as fraternity prank.

If the defendant is between the ages of 21 and 24, the youthful trainee statute is still applicable, but it does require the express consent of the prosecutor. If the prosecutor does not agree to the defendant being granted the youthful trainee status, then it will not be an available remedy.

Crimes not Eligible for HYTA

Pursuant to the HYTA statute, a defendant is not eligible for youthful offender treatment if that defendant pleads guilty to:

  • Certain traffic offenses (including OWI operating while intoxicated);
  • Major felonies that carry maximum potential penalty of life in prison;
  • Major controlled substance offenses;
  • Most sex offenses.

The State of Michigan maintains annual statistics involving defendants who have interactions with the Department of Corrections. From these statistics, we can see how many offenders served in a Department of Corrections facility under a HYTA sentence, and we can see that those numbers are very low. Again, as we can see from these numbers, it is possible to get a prison sentence, even though a defendant was still granted youth trainee status, but it is not very likely.

However, these are treated on a case-by-case basis, as the facts are never the same, so the best thing a defendant can do is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who has worked with many youthful trainee cases in the past.

Contact Michigan criminal defense lawyers. Serving Lansing, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.