Teenage Sex Crimes and the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act
Being charged with any crime can be extremely difficult, with the pain and pressure of impending legal ramifications coupled with the uncertainty of sentencing and the possibility of prison, probation, and parole are particularly stressful. Sex crimes are considered especially heinous, because of the social stigma that a conviction carries. The weight of a conviction can diminish the quality of a person’s life because it can also result in a lifetime of sex offender registration and a lifetime of electronic monitoring. These impediments can lead to difficulties finding employment, enrollment in higher education, and even housing. A sex crime conviction is arguably worse for a teenager because they have so much of their life left to live.
A sex crime conviction for a teenager can act as a fork in the road leading further away from a young person’s aspirations for a bright and prosperous future. Grabel & Associate’s objective is to avoid a future blighted by sex crime convictions and registration as a sexual offender, and thankfully, the State of Michigan has supported these efforts with the passage of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) which is codified in MCL 762.11.
You or your child still have options and hope for a brighter future, and in this section, we will explain and discuss some aspects of adolescent sex crimes and how the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act affects each charge. Keep in mind, if the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act does not apply to the particular charge that you are facing, there are still many legal, evidentiary, and factual arguments that may be available to aid in reducing, dropping, or dismissing the charges. Part of participation in the Homes Youthful Trainee Act program is pleading guilty to one of the applicable charges; and therefore, if a charge does not qualify for the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, then it may be appropriate to attempt to negotiate a plea bargain for a charge that is applicable with the HYTA.
Overview of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is an excellent initiative promulgated by the Michigan State Legislature to give young offenders a second chance and not punish them for the rest of their lives for a youthful indiscretion. The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is codified in MCL 762.11 and is only available to young people who are 17 to 24 years of age. There are limitations as to the type of offenses that qualify for the program because there are exclusions expressly enumerated in the HYTA.
Admission into the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act has tremendous benefits. If you or the person you care about qualifies, then two things must happen to reap the generous benefits of the program. First, it is necessary to plead guilty to a charge to be accepted in the program. Once the guilty plea is entered then the accused will be assigned the status of a "youthful trainee," and the judgment is considered "deferred." A deferred judgment means that there will be no conviction entered on the record. Second, the youthful trainee must complete the terms of the sentence. Typically, this will be a term of probation. Once the probation is complete without any probation violations, the charge is dismissed, and the records are sealed without any conviction entered for any offense.
There are many different types of sexual offenses that a teenager might be charged with, so we will start with some of the most prevalent in Michigan. Statutory rape and date rape are both common charges in Michigan, and both are charged under the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act but do have some distinct differences.
Statutory rape is commonly understood to be consensual sex between a person 18 years of age or older with someone below the age of consent. In Michigan, the age of consent is 16 years of age, so sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 16 can result in statutory rape charges. There is not actually a statutory rape law in Michigan, and therefore, the charges are under the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act. If the other person were under 16 to 13 years of age, then the charge would be criminal sexual conduct third degree, but if the other person were under 13 years of age, then the charge would be the more serious criminal sexual conduct first degree.
Criminal sexual conduct third degree is codified in MCL 750.520c and is a serious felony charge. The maximum penalty for a criminal sexual conduct third degree charge is 15 years in prison. If the other person was under 13 years of age, then a statutory rape will be charged as criminal sexual conduct first degree. The penalty for criminal sexual conduct first degree can range from any number of years up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Unfortunately, under the current laws in Michigan, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is not available to people convicted of criminal sexual conduct first degree. However, a vital element of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is that the accused must plead guilty to the charges, so it may be possible to negotiate a plea deal to be included in HYTA for a guilty plea to a lesser offense. Consequently, if a plea deal is negotiated that does involve the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, then it would be possible to complete the terms of the sentence and have no conviction entered. If you or your loved one are accepted into the HYTA program, then there is no conviction, no sex offender registration, and no long-term effect after probation.
If the prosecution insists on moving forward with criminal sexual conduct first degree or a non-eligible offense, then it is worth noting that there is a Romeo & Juliet sex offender registration exception in Michigan that must have a hearing requested to be claimed. If a person is seeking to claim the Romeo & Juliet exception then it is imperative that the hearing is requested after the verdict but before sentencing. Three requirements must be met to claim the exception. First, the sex had to be consensual, and this factor is typically satisfied in statutory rape cases. Next, the other person must be between the age of 13 and 16, and finally, the person seeking the exception must not have been more than four years older than the other person at the time of the offense.
Date Rape Under the Controlled Substances Act
Date rape is unique because there is typically a more complicated set of evidentiary facts involved than a criminal sexual conduct charge and there are often multiple charges associated with date rape. The formal legal charge for date rape involving drugs such as Rohypnol, Valium, or GHB is called drug-facilitated criminal sexual conduct and is codified in MCL 333.7401a. Drug-facilitated criminal sexual conduct is a felony offense with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
If you or the person you care about is facing charges related to date rape, then there is a path to getting accepted into the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, but it requires careful legal maneuvering that includes working with both the judge and prosecutor to get the young person into the program. First, if there is a corresponding criminal sexual conduct charge then the person will not be applicable for the program, so the charge must be dropped or reduced. Additionally, there is an express exclusion to the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act for major controlled substances violations, so consequently, it is necessary to get both the consent of the judge and the prosecutor to be accepted into this program. The preceding is only an example and there are many paths to a favorable outcome.
Criminal Sexual Conduct Act
Criminal sexual conduct can be divided into two categories. Some crimes involve penetration and other crimes involve sexual contact. Sexual penetration crimes are either criminal sexual conduct first degree or criminal sexual conduct third degree with criminal sexual conduct first degree being the more severe charge. Criminal sexual conduct first degree and criminal sexual conduct third degree are both felonies, and HYTA is not available for criminal sexual conduct first degree but can be available for criminal sexual conduct third degree. Navigate to our web pages on criminal sexual conduct first degree, criminal sexual conduct third degree, and post-conviction relief to learn more about what can be done.
Sexual contact crimes are either criminal sexual conduct second degree or criminal sexual conduct fourth degree with criminal sexual conduct second degree being the more serious of the charges. Criminal sexual conduct second degree is a felony with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Criminal sexual conduct fourth degree is the only criminal sexual conduct that is a misdemeanor and has a maximum penalty of two years in prison and does have probation available as a potential penalty.
As was previously stated, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act may not be available for a criminal sexual conduct charge, but if you or your teenager are facing a criminal sexual conduct charge, then there are some things that you should consider. First, depending on the facts, features, and evidence available in your case, it may be possible to take your case to trial and win. Second, criminal sexual conduct fourth degree is a misdemeanor, and probation is a possible outcome for a criminal sexual conduct fourth degree conviction.
Additionally, as mentioned previously, Michigan does have the Romeo & Juliet exception for sex offender registration, so it is possible to be convicted of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree and not have to register as a sexual offender. Consequently, one misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct fourth-degree conviction is possible without having to go to prison or having to register as a sex offender. These are only hypothetical situations, and each case is different, however, there are many legal tools as well as factual, and evidentiary arguments available.
Grabel & Associates Approach to Utilizing the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act for Teenage Sex Crimes
First, if you have not yet been charged, but a police investigation is underway, then we will work on the prefiling investigation to avoid legal charges from ever being filed. Avoiding charges is undoubtedly the best outcome because it avoids anything going on your record and you can avoid the unnecessary hardship of a protracted legal battle. However, if formal legal charges have already been filed, then our sex crimes attorney will maintain a focus on getting the charges dropped, dismissed, or winning your case.
Before the trial is the stage of the legal proceedings that the possibility of entering the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act exists, because as was previously discussed it is necessary to plead guilty to a charge to be admitted into the HYTA program, and consequently, it is necessary to negotiate the charges as part of a plea deal. If this option is not available or it is not in the best interest of the client, then we will begin to prepare for trial.
The primary objective continues to be avoiding a conviction. Therefore, it is imperative to investigate all claims and evidence thoroughly, and the testimony assembled against the defendant. Each case is different, and the particular factual, legal and evidentiary arguments utilized in your case will depend on your circumstances.
Grabel & Associates has been specializing in the criminal defense of minors and teenagers accused of sex crimes for almost two decades, and we have the experience, knowledge, and expertise to obtain favorable results. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so contact us online or call us at 1-800-883-2138 for a free consultation to begin crafting an individualized, aggressive, and comprehensive legal defense strategy.