Teenage Sex Crimes and HYTA

The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, or the HYTA, as is it is often called, is codified in MCLA Section 762.11. This statute was designed to allow criminal defendants between the ages of 17 and 24 the opportunity to avoid a permanent criminal record. With a designation of a “youthful trainee” (available in most misdemeanor and felony cases) – one can enter a guilty plea, successfully complete probationary terms and walk away with no conviction.

For those facing allegations of teenage sex crimes, this can be an important reprieve. Grabel & Associates sex crimes defense lawyers in Michigan will always fight to minimize penalties and convictions. Cases that can be won on merit (lack of evidence, violation of constitutional rights, etc.) should be pursued on that front. But where evidence is stacked high against a first-time offender facing a sex crime conviction, MCL 762.11 is necessary to explore.

A youthful trainee will be required to abide by the conditions set forth by the sentencing judge and agreed to by the youthful trainee. These conditions can include going to school, taking random drug tests, taking regularly scheduled drug tests, applying for jobs and maintaining employment, and or any number of similar conditions. This can also include actually serving time in jail or prison, but that is quite rare. In some cases, the judge will simply tell the defendant not to violate any laws or be arrested on probable cause, and then to come back at the completion of the probationary period to have the case dismissed. At this point, the defendant’s record will be sealed.

Offenses Not Eligible under HYTA

Under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, a defendant is not eligible if he or she commits one of the following offenses:

  • Traffic Offenses, including Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
  • A crime punishable by life in prison
  • A major controlled substance offense
  • Most sex crimes including:
    • First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
    • Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

HTYA and Teenage Sex Crimes

Pursuant to MCLA Section 762.11, if a defendant pleads guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct, or fourth-degree sexual conduct, the defendant may be eligible to qualify under the HYTA. Third-degree sexual conduct, pursuant to MCLA 750.520d, involves the following elements:

  • Defendant engaged in sexual penetration with another person and one of the following conditions are met:
    • The alleged victim is between the age of 13 and 16
    • Force or coercion is used to sexual penetrate the alleged victim
    • The defendant knew or had reason to know the alleged victim is mentally ill, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless
    • The alleged victim is related to the defendant by blood or marriage in the third degree, with some exceptions
    • The alleged victim is between the ages of 16 and 18, and a school student, and
      • The defendant is an employee or contract worker at the school and the alleged victim is a student or volunteer at the school, and the defendant used his or her work with the school to establish a relationship with the alleged victim
    • The alleged victim is between the ages of 16 and 26 and is enrolled in special education, and
      • The defendant works at the school and used that relation to establish a relationship with the alleged victim

If the defendant pleads guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which is a felony, and the defendant is between the ages of 17 and 24 at the time of the plea of guilty, the defendant is eligible for treatment of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. This offense is normally punishable by a term in prison of not more than 15 years. This does not mean a defendant will have to serve 15 years in prison, but absent treatment under HYTA, having a sexual offense conviction can make it very difficult to get a job or even lead a normal life.

For this reason, a defendant who is between the ages of 17 and 24, and has been charged with criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, should speak with an experienced defense attorney at Grabel & Associates. It is also important to understand that being arrested for any criminal offense, including a teenage sex crime, does not mean that the offense will result in a conviction. In some cases, your lawyer will advise you to take the case to trial and fight for an acquittal. However, in some cases, taking a plea that provides the opportunity to avoid a sex crime conviction may lead to the best possible outcome. These are all decisions that must be must be made based upon the facts in a defendant’s actual case, so the defendant should speak with his or her attorney about the actual criminal matter.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fourth-Degree

If the defendant has been charged with criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, and that defendant is between the ages of 17 and 24 at the time of a plea, defendant may be eligible for treatment under the HYTA as well. The primary difference between criminal sexual conduct in the third degree and criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree is that the third-degree offense involves sexual penetration and the fourth-degree offense does not involve penetration, but does involve sexual conduct to the genital area, inner thigh, buttocks, groin, or breasts.

Pursuant to MCLA 750.520e, a defendant may be convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree if the alleged victim was between the age of 13 and 16, and the defendant was at least 5 years old the alleged victim. Force or coercion involved in the commission of the offense, and a variety of other elements similar to criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, with the exception of penetration.

If the defendant is between the ages of 17 and 24, defendant may be eligible for a sentence pursuant to the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. If defendant was between the ages of 17 and 21, the judge can enter the defendant into an HYTA sentence without consent of the prosecutor. If on the other hand, defendant is between the ages of 21 and 24, the prosecuting attorney will have to consent to HYTA treatment, as well. Defendant’s experienced criminal defense attorney can work with the prosecutor to reach such a resolution. Another thing to keep in mind is that defendant’s age is relevant at the time of the plea, and not the offense.

As we can learn from the Michigan Incident Crime Reporting Data, in most years, the age range for victims with the highest number of offenses is between the ages of 15 and 19.

Contact Grabel & Associates sex crime defense attorneys in Michigan.