What does Youthful Offender mean?

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Criminal penalties tend to be harsh so that the state can accomplish its goals, including deterring similar future conduct from the defendant and others. Some states provide for lighter sentences for certain individuals, including youthful offenders.

Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

Defendants who are ultimately convicted of a crime often experience a number of serious consequences. One serious consequence is potential jail or prison time. Another consequence is being assigned probation or parole in which a person must be on his or her best behavior and follow strict rules in order to prevent further convictions. Having a criminal record can sometimes follow a person around for the rest of his or her life, making it difficult to secure employment, pursue certain types of educational tracks and be approved for certain leases.

About the Youthful Offender Status

A defendant younger than 21 who is facing a criminal charge to seek youthful offender status. Being granted this status can mean that the individual receives a reduction in penalties. It can also sometimes result in a person not acquiring a criminal record.The act seeks to help young offenders avoid the negative consequences and stigma of having a criminal record.

If a person is classified as a youthful offender in accordance with this program, he or she is provided with an informal and confidential process that focuses on rehabilitation. This means that the person is not handled in the traditional format in a criminal court. Instead, special proceedings will be utilized to assist those individuals considered youthful offenders.


In order to receive classification as a youthful offender, a defendant must be under 21 years of age and currently be facing criminal charges. Additionally, if the defendant is facing conviction of a violent crime or a crime in which the victim sustained serious injuries or died, the victim receives a notice 10 days before the hearing.

The defendant submits to a court examination to determine whether he or she will be eligible for youthful offender status. The defendant must also agree to a trial without a jury even if he or she would otherwise be entitled to a jury. During the examination and investigation, probation officers usually complete the process. The extent of the victim’s injuries can be used to help determine status.

If the defendant is approved under this classification, the court may order the defendant to be arraigned as a youthful offender and that no further action be made on the information or indictment. If the defendant is not approved for youthful offender status, the court can order that indictment or information be filed and the individual can be tried as an adult.

Youthful Offender Proceedings

Trials and other proceedings related to youthful offenders are conducted at court sessions that are distinct from those in which adults are charged with criminal offenses. If a defendant pleads not guilty while a youthful offender, he or she will not have a trial by jury.

Felony Charges

If a youthful offender is charged with a felony, the court has the power to make many discretionary decisions, including suspending a jail sentence with or without probation, placing the youthful offender on probation for up to three years, giving custody of the offender to the Board of Corrections or imposing a fine on the defendant. The court can impose a fine of up to $1,000 instead of or in addition to other criminal consequences. It can authorize installment payments of the fine.

Misdemeanor Charges

If the defendant is facing a misdemeanor charge, the court may order correctional treatment for the defendant. Other criminal consequences that the defendant receives are often greatly reduced in comparison to the punishments that adults receive who face the same charges.

Criminal Record Information

Even if a youthful offender is found guilty, the charge will not appear on the youthful offender’s criminal record. Additionally, the typical penalties associated with an ordinary conviction will not apply. Youthful offenders retain their civil rights, allowing them to retain their right to vote and carry a firearm. In comparison, adults convicted of certain crimes often lose these civil rights.