Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA)

The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) was established by the Michigan state legislature and codified in MCLA Section 762.11 to carve out a second-chance option for youthful offenders – even those accused of sex crimes.

The statute was created because young adults who make the wrong choices – including the commission of a crime. But with the right opportunities, they may be able to turn their lives around and become contributing members of society.

Our sex crimes defense attorneys know this law provides a unique opportunity for criminal defendants who plead guilty to a wide range of misdemeanors, felonies, and or ordinance violations. By completing the terms of the agreement, defendants can avoid having a conviction on their record. This allows these individuals who successful to enter and complete the terms of a youth trainee or youthful offender agreement to put this unfortunate offense behind them and lead a productive life.

This is an especially important option for those facing sex crimes offenses, which can stain one’s criminal record permanently, making future opportunities extremely difficult.

Criminal Offenses Eligible for HYTA Agreements

Pursuant to MCLA Section 762.11, a criminal defendant who has been charged with an eligible offense, and is between the ages of 17 and 24 at the time of the conviction, may request the judge to take the plea of guilty and, instead of entering a conviction, place the youthful offender on a period of probation that can include going to school, getting a GED, searching for employment, maintaining employment, taking a course such as anger management, and taking random or routine drug tests.

The offenses that are eligible for Holmes Youth Trainee Act status include misdemeanors and felonies that do not carry a term of life in prison. Traffic offenses, include operating while impaired (OWI) are not eligible, nor are most serious sex offenses.

There are some sex crimes that qualify for HYTA, as long as the defendant was between the ages of 17 and 24. These offenses include criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, and criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree.

People v. Dipazza

In People v. DiPazza, 778 NW 2nd 264 (Michigan Court of Appeals 2009), defendant was alleged to have a consensual sexual relationship with a person who was 15 years of age at the time of the alleged offense. He was arrested after a teacher allegedly found the two in bed together engaged in sexual activity.

Defendant pled guilty to attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct and was given a sentence pursuant to the Holmes Youthful Treatment Act. He was required to complete probation, and to also register as a sex offender. He successfully completed his probation, and his criminal charges were dismissed, meaning he had no criminal conviction, but he was still required to register as a sex offender.

Defendant filed a petition with the trial court to allow him to remove his name from the sexual offender registry. This is clearly a reasonable request, because one of the main purposes of the HYTA is to allow the charges to be dismissed and defendant’s record to be sealed. If defendant is required to continue to register as a sex offender, any Google search of the defendant’s name will reveal his status on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, and that will defeat the purpose of having a conviction sealed in many respects.

Judge agreed with defendant, but did not have the authority to remove the defendant from the sex offender registry. The judge did reduce the time defendant must maintain his registry requirement to 10 years.

Defendant appealed, arguing that since he had no conviction, he should no longer be required to register. There is no question that having to register as a sex offender can have serious consequences. For this reason, anyone who has been charged with a crime for which registering under the Sexual Offense Registration Act (SORA) is a possible outcome should speak with an experienced Michigan sex crimes defense attorney about this issue. There is no single answer in these situations, because no two cases are the same. The outcome of any cases will depend on the facts surrounding the alleged offense. Defendant’s attorney can advise the client about the actual sex-based offense for which defendant was charged.

The court ultimately ruled that withholding a conviction under HYTA while still requiring him to register did constitute a cruel and unusual penalty, and he should not be required to register as a sex offender.

In some cases, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor for a sentence that does not include registering on the sexual offender registry, which is, of course, the preferable result.

Violating Terms of Holmes Youthful Trainee Act

Once a defendant pleads guilty to an offense under the HYTA, the defendant must successfully complete the terms of probation to avoid having a conviction entered on his or her record. At this point, his criminal record will be sealed. If, however, defendant does not complete the terms of the probation, the judge can sentence the defendant as he or she would anyone who has been convicted of the crime. If the offense is a misdemeanor, the judge can sentence the defendant on the same day as the youthful treatment is revoked. If the offense was a felony, the judge cannot sentence the defendant on the same day, as a presentence investigation (PSI) will be ordered.

The defendant will not be able to otherwise defend the case, because a plea of guilty has already been entered. Defendant’s attorney will be able to argue for a lesser sentence, but this will still result in a conviction being entered, and defendant’s record will not be sealed. This is why a defendant who has been granted youthful trainee status must do whatever possible to comply with the terms of probation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, once a defendant has successfully completed the terms of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act and defendant’s record, if defendant is arrested for another criminal offense, the offer is generally only available for first-time offenders. Even though the record is publically sealed, the record will be available to the court.

Contact Grabel & Associates sex crime defense attorneys in Michigan.

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