Youthful Offenders

Teenage and young adults do not always make rational choices when confronted with a decision that a fully mature adult would have no problem navigating. This is because the frontal lobes of the brain are not fully developed until we reach the age of 25 or so, according to numerous peer review research, including a recent study published in the National Library of Medicine citing the state of current neuroscience research. The frontal lobes are responsible for impulse control, planning, working memory, and more. Adolescents, because of their partially developed frontal lobes, are more inclined to take risks, are predisposed to novelty seeking, and are easily influenced by peer-based interactions, or peer-pressure. Florida courts often takes this into account when young adults break the law.

Judicial Disposition of Youthful Offenders

The intent of the Florida youthful offender law under statute 958.021 is to “improve the chances of correction and successful return to the community of youthful offenders sentenced to imprisonment.” The law applies only to those aged at least 18 but younger than 21 years old at the time of sentencing, not at the time of the alleged criminal violation. This is carried out by enhanced vocational training, education, counseling, or public service opportunities. Additionally, the youthful offender program seeks to prevent association with experienced older criminals during their incarceration period. The law was designed as an intermediary between juvenile sentencing and adult criminal court, which is often too harsh on very young adult offenders and could likely set them up for a life of failure. In order to qualify for youthful offender sentencing, the defendant must meet the age criteria described above, as well as the following:

  • The defendant has been found guilty, pled guilty, or has pled nolo contendere;
  • The crime was not a capital felony or life felony; and
  • The defendant has not been sentenced as a youthful offender in the past.

Sentencing Under the Youthful Offender Act

There are four types of criminal sentencing under the youthful offender laws of Florida, which include the following:

  • Up to 364 days of confinement in a county jail, department probation and restitution center, or community residential facility;
  • Probation or a community control program for up to six years;
  • Incarceration in the Department of Corrections (prison) for up to six years. The term of imprisonment under the youthful offender act cannot exceed the term of imprisonment for the crime the defendant was charged for; or
  • A split sentence between probation or community control and incarceration. The term of incarceration must be between one and four years, while the total sentence, including probation and community control, will be a maximum of six years.

Commission of a new crime while on probation or in a community control program will nullify the youthful offenders sentencing, and the defendant will face new charges that will be punished to the adult criminal code’s full potential.

Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or your child meet the age requirements of the youthful offender act, we strongly encourage you to get in touch with one of our West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys today with the Skier Law Firm at (561) 820-1508.

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