The U.S. criminal justice system understands that juveniles do not have the same brain development and decision-making capacity as adults. To acknowledge this, Florida passed the Florida Youthful Offender Act (the “Act”) which gives alternative sentencing options for certain individuals who are under the age of 21 at the time of sentencing. Your knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you or a loved one are eligible for youthful offender status.
Florida Youthful Offender Act
In order to be eligible for consideration as a youthful offender, the defendant must meet certain requirements. Of course there is an age requirement. Defendants need to be between 18 and 21 at the time of sentencing. Defendants under 18 are also potentially eligible for youthful offender status if the case has been transferred to the adult court.
Youthful offender status is available only for felonies, however; it is not available for those who have been convicted of capital or life felonies. Defendants also need to have been found guilty or have pled nolo contendere (no contest) to their charges. Finally, defendants are only eligible for youthful offender status one time. Therefore, if they have already been sentenced as a youthful offender before, they are not eligible a second time.
If the judge determines that a defendant is eligible for youthful offender status under the Act, they are able to give a more lenient sentence. Youthful offenders can only be sentenced to up to six years of jail time. They also may be sentenced to up to six years of probation, house arrest, or other supervision.
Appeals Court Case
The Fourth District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida recently heard a case where the judge had to determine whether to grant the defendant youthful offender status or not. Here, the defendant tried to steal an unoccupied and idling car outside of a fast food restaurant. The owner of the car was able to reach in and put the car in neutral and began struggling with the defendant. The defendant shot at the car owner and hit him in his back and knees. However, the driver was able to get control of the car and drive away. He ended up being found guilty of aggravated battery and trespass.
The defendant was under the age of 18 at the time of sentencing, and asked the court for youthful offender sentence. The trial court judge explained that he had a hard time making the decision as to whether to grant the defendant youthful offender status or not. On one hand, the judge noted that if the defendant was not given youthful offender status, the judge would be required to sentence him to at least 25 years in prison. On the other hand, he noted that youthful offender status is generally not appropriate when there have been shots fired.
Eventually, the judge denied the defendant’s application for youthful offender status and sentenced him to 25 years. The appeals court here upheld this decision, although one judge dissented.
Contact an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today!
Being convicted of a crime as a young person can have huge consequences on someone’s life. The violent crimes defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm zealously and knowledgeably defend clients charged with a crime. Contact us online or call our offices at (727) 897-5413 to speak with our skilled attorneys about your case.
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Florida Court Remands Case, Highlighting Effect of Juvenile Offender Status on Sentencing