Michael McNamara, Esq.
On August 18th, changes to the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) program will take effect following Governor Snyder’s approval of Public Acts 31-33 of 2015. The most significant change is the age for HYTA is being extended to 24 years old.
The original purpose of the HYTA was to allow judges to place a youth aged 17-20 who pled or was found guilty of a crime on probation to avoid a criminal record upon compliance with the judges sentence. Essentially it operates like a conditional dismissal, under which compliance with the court’s punishment will guarantee that there is no conviction, allowing the offender’s record to remain clean.
This is especially important for young men and women who will soon be searching for their first career position, if not so already. By complying with the HYTA program, an offender will never have to check “yes” when asked if they have been convicted, which can make or break a person’s prospects for employment.
PA 31 extends this age limit all the way to a person’s 24th birthday, with some conditions attached. First, if the offender is 21 or older then he or she cannot be assigned to youthful trainee status without the consent of the prosecuting attorney. Next, youthful trainees may now be required to maintain employment or attendance in school. If he or she is not employed or enrolled in school, the court may then require that this person actively seek employment or entry into an educational institution (high school, community college, trade school, university, etc.). Finally, a youthful trainee over the age of 21 may now be subject to electronic monitoring during his or her probationary term.
There are crimes that could result in the automatic revocation of youthful trainee status as provided in PA 32. With this new legislation, all of the crimes that qualified an offender for the HYTA program will now disqualify their status on a subsequent offense. In other words, they have one chance to participate in the HYTA program.
In the past, it was up to the court to maintain or revoke the status of a trainee who committed another HYTA-qualifying crime. Now, the courts must revoke the status of a trainee who will then be subject to applicable penalties and prison sentences.
The final amendments provided in PA 33 focus on the duration and conditions for felony offenses. Traditionally, such offenses resulted in the individual being committed to the department of corrections for custodial supervision and training (similar to boot-camp) for not more than 3 years. PA 33 reduces the maximum sentence down to 2 years. Also, the act will list certain offenses that will exclude the trainee from being committed to the department of corrections for custodial supervision and training. Prior to this any youthful trainee could have been committed, even if the crime they committed was relatively harmless.
The final change resulting from PA 33 is the addition of a mandatory probation period of no more than 1 year for youthful trainees who were committed to the department of corrections or to the county jail. Before this amendment, Judges would simply give the trainee a choice of custodial supervision or probation. Now, Judges can use a combination of the two.
These changes are a part of Governor Snyder’s goal to reduce the prison population and cost of incarceration. Through reduction of HYTA sentences and extending the eligible age limit, it is expected that fewer offenders will go to prison resulting in savings for Michigan taxpayers while offering young offenders a chance to avoid an adult criminal conviction.
If you or your child are facing criminal charges, you need to contact attorney Mike McNamara immediately. He is an expert in the Michigan criminal justice system and can make the difference between having a clean record and being haunted by a conviction for the rest of your life. Visit the contact page of Fausone Bohn LLP for more information