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What is the Florida Youthful Offender Act and Can it Benefit You?

A Sarasota Juvenile Lawyer Discusses the Florida Youthful Offender Act

The Florida Youthful Offender Act (the “Act”) was enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1978 to provide young adults who would normally be prosecuted in adult criminal court, with a more flexible and less harsh sentencing program.  Florida Statute Section 958.021 explains that a primary purpose behind the Act is to increase the likelihood of rehabilitating and successfully returning young adult offenders (“youthful offenders”) to society by preventing their interaction with older and more experienced criminals in the prison system.  Under the Act, youthful offenders are given increased vocational, educational, counseling and public service opportunities and they must participate in substance abuse and other forms of counseling.  Members of the community are also encouraged to volunteer their time and skills to help youthful offenders reintegrate into their communities.

In addition to rehabilitation and reintegration of youthful offenders, the Act also provides courts with an additional sentencing alternative “when dealing with offenders who have demonstrated that they can no longer be handled safely as juveniles and who require more substantial limitations upon their liberty to ensure the protection of society.”

Who Can Qualify as a “Youthful Offender” Under the Act?

If you are a young adult dealing with the Florida criminal justice system, you may be wondering whether you are eligible for sentencing under Florida’s youthful offender program.  There are two ways in which you can be sentenced as a youthful offender under the Act.  First, a court may sentence you as a youthful offender if:

  • You are at least 18 years old but less than 21 years of age at the time of sentencing, or if you are under 18 and your case has been transferred to adult court for prosecution;
  • You have pled nolo contendere or been found guilty of a felony crime (if your crime is a capital or life felony you may not be sentenced as a youthful offender under the Act); and,
  • You have not been previously classified as a youthful offender under the Act.

Even if you have not been sentenced by the court as a youthful offender, the Florida Department of Corrections (the “Department”) may still assign you to the youthful offender program.  The Department may classify and assign inmates to the program who are under the age of 25 but were not sentenced as youthful offenders, if they meet the Act’s eligibility criteria. The Department may also assign an inmate to the program when it believes that the inmate should be a youthful offender but was ineligible because he/she was over the age of 21 at the time of sentencing, provided the inmate’s total sentence does not exceed 10 years.  If you have any questions about your eligibility for this program you should discuss your situation with an experienced Sarasota juvenile lawyer.

Sentencing Options for Youthful Offenders

Florida courts generally have greater flexibility and leniency options when sentencing youthful offenders.  Under the Act, a judge can sentence you to probation, community control or jail time, or any combination thereof.  For instance, you may be sentenced to:

  1. Supervision on probation or in a community control program, with or without an adjudication of guilt, for up to 6 years
  2. Incarceration in a county facility, a department probation and restitution center, or a community residential facility for no more than 364 days
  3. A split sentence where you will be placed on probation or community control upon completion of a period of incarceration, with the incarceration not to exceed four to six years in jail

If you are a young adult who has been charged with or convicted of a felony, you should contact a Sarasota juvenile lawyer to carefully review your situation.  The conditions and requirements associated with Florida’s youthful offender program can be difficult to navigate and understand.  A Sarasota lawyer experienced in working with juvenile and youthful offenders can help guide you through Florida’s criminal justice system and identify the options available to you.

A Sarasota Juvenile Lawyer Discusses the Florida Youthful Offender Act

The Florida Youthful Offender Act (the “Act”) was enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1978 to provide young adults who would normally be prosecuted in adult criminal court, with a more flexible and less harsh sentencing program.  Florida Statute Section 958.021 explains that a primary purpose behind the Act is to increase the likelihood of rehabilitating and successfully returning young adult offenders (“youthful offenders”) to society by preventing their interaction with older and more experienced criminals in the prison system.  Under the Act, youthful offenders are given increased vocational, educational, counseling and public service opportunities and they must participate in substance abuse and other forms of counseling.  Members of the community are also encouraged to volunteer their time and skills to help youthful offenders reintegrate into their communities.

In addition to rehabilitation and reintegration of youthful offenders, the Act also provides courts with an additional sentencing alternative “when dealing with offenders who have demonstrated that they can no longer be handled safely as juveniles and who require more substantial limitations upon their liberty to ensure the protection of society.”

Who Can Qualify as a “Youthful Offender” Under the Act?

If you are a young adult dealing with the Florida criminal justice system, you may be wondering whether you are eligible for sentencing under Florida’s youthful offender program.  There are two ways in which you can be sentenced as a youthful offender under the Act.  First, a court may sentence you as a youthful offender if:

  • You are at least 18 years old but less than 21 years of age at the time of sentencing, or if you are under 18 and your case has been transferred to adult court for prosecution;
  • You have pled nolo contendere or been found guilty of a felony crime (if your crime is a capital or life felony you may not be sentenced as a youthful offender under the Act); and,
  • You have not been previously classified as a youthful offender under the Act.

Even if you have not been sentenced by the court as a youthful offender, the Florida Department of Corrections (the “Department”) may still assign you to the youthful offender program.  The Department may classify and assign inmates to the program who are under the age of 25 but were not sentenced as youthful offenders, if they meet the Act’s eligibility criteria. The Department may also assign an inmate to the program when it believes that the inmate should be a youthful offender but was ineligible because he/she was over the age of 21 at the time of sentencing, provided the inmate’s total sentence does not exceed 10 years.  If you have any questions about your eligibility for this program you should discuss your situation with an experienced Sarasota juvenile lawyer.

Sentencing Options for Youthful Offenders

Florida courts generally have greater flexibility and leniency options when sentencing youthful offenders.  Under the Act, a judge can sentence you to probation, community control or jail time, or any combination thereof.  For instance, you may be sentenced to:

  1. Supervision on probation or in a community control program, with or without an adjudication of guilt, for up to 6 years
  2. Incarceration in a county facility, a department probation and restitution center, or a community residential facility for no more than 364 days
  3. A split sentence where you will be placed on probation or community control upon completion of a period of incarceration, with the incarceration not to exceed four to six years in jail

If you are a young adult who has been charged with or convicted of a felony, you should contact a Sarasota juvenile lawyer to carefully review your situation.  The conditions and requirements associated with Florida’s youthful offender program can be difficult to navigate and understand.  A Sarasota lawyer experienced in working with juvenile and youthful offenders can help guide you through Florida’s criminal justice system and identify the options available to you.

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