Michigan’s Legislators recently passed a bill that would allow most people under 26 years of age charged with a crime to avoid a permanent criminal record. The new law was signed into law by Governor Witmer earlier this year.
Called the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, the law provides that if an individual pleads guilty to a criminal offense, committed between the individual’s eighteenth and twenty-sixth birthdays, a judge may assign the individual to the status of youthful trainee. Doing so requires the consent of the person charged with the crime, and most judges require the prosecution to agree to this disposition as well. Certain crimes require the consent of the prosecution and if the individual is between 21 and 26 years, then the prosecutor’s consent must also be obtained. If there is a victim, in some circumstances they must also be consulted but the law falls short of indicating the complainant must consent.
If the judge presiding over the case agrees to allow youthful trainee status, the offender pleads guilty to the crime, but the court does not enter a conviction. Provided the Judge does not revoke the youthful trainee status, when the matter is concluded, the case will be dismissed, and the person will have no criminal record. The law specifically provides that assignment as a youthful trainee precludes the individual from suffering any “civil disability or loss of right or privilege.”
A person who is assigned to the status of a youthful trainee may be required to complete a term of probation that includes conditions such as to maintain employment, obtain a GED or attend college or trade school. Many other conditions are possible as well. A failure to comply with these terms and conditions can result in the HYTA status being removed, and if that happens, the individual will end up with a criminal record. They can receive further sanctions, such as incarceration.
Not all individuals under 26 years of age will be eligible for HYTA consideration and you should discuss your eligibility with your lawyers. Also, individuals charged with certain crimes are expressly ineligible for youthful trainee status. Ineligible offenses include those punishable by a maximum of up to life in prison and most Michigan criminal sexual conduct charges.
All traffic offenses, including any kind of drunk driving offense are ineligible for HYTA consideration, but based on another new change in Michigan’s law, in most instances, DUI offense may now be removed from the offender’s public criminal record. This is called expungement.To learn if your Michigan DUI can be expunged, please see “What Michigan DUI Offenses Can be Expunged?”
Being assigned to HYTA does not avoid punishment, and that is not the expressed goal or purpose of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. Michigan law provides that a person can be given HYTA and placed on probation for up to 3 years. During probation, the offender can be subject to any of the terms and conditions of probation that would otherwise be applicable. This can also include participation in an adult treatment court.
Individuals placed on HYTA can also be given jail time. If jail time is ordered as part of the sentence, the court may allow work release. However, work release is not available in some jails.
Placing an individual into HYTA is discretionary with the judge. In most instances HYTA requires a plea of guilty but some judges will allow HYTA after an unsuccessful trial. Finally, a judge may terminate HYTA at any time, even where revocation is not mandatory under the law.
If you are more than 17 years of age, but less than 26 years of age and are charged with a crime in Michigan, be sure to discuss whether you can avoid a criminal conviction by being given youthful trainee status.