Youthful Offender Adjudication

Under the Criminal Procedure Law, CPL 720.35, and a central component to any child prosecution that your criminal lawyer will explain to you, a "youth" is defined as a person charged with a crime alleged to have been committed when he or she was either 16 or 17 years old. A child of this age will typically be prosecuted in much the same way as an adult, in the same court as adults, by the same District Attorney's Office as adults. However, children of this age, in the right situations, are granted certain options designed to take their age into consideration and alleviate some of the burden of having a permanent criminal record which could otherwise result from a criminal prosecution.

Adjudicated a Youthful Offender v. Criminal Conviction

If a 16 or 17 year old child is eligible, he or she may be "adjudicated a Youthful Offender" rather than be "convicted" of the charged offense. This has several important consequences and ramifications. For one, it is not a "criminal conviction," and a child who has been adjudicated a youthful offender would be correct to say that they have never been convicted of a crime. This can be critical for the rest of the child's life, especially with regard to educational options and job prospects. In addition, the records of such an adjudication are automatically sealed, although the records are still available to certain agencies and departments. Having records sealed and preventing the imposition of a permanent "criminal record" can preserve the possibility of a productive and bright future for a child who finds themselves on the wrong side of the criminal justice system at such a young age. Obviously, should the circumstances demand it, best ensuring that your lawyer secure a YO over a criminal conviction can change the trajectory of a child’s life.

The rules and regulations surround Youth Offender status are complicated and can be very confusing. A child will be automatically adjudicated a Youthful Offender if they have not previously received a YO and they are convicted of a misdemeanor, such as Criminal Mischief, PL 145.00, or Criminal Trespass, PL 140.10. If, however, a child of 16 or 17 is convicted of a felony, it will be up to the judge whether or not the child should receive YO status. This is where the right juvenile and criminal lawyer is critical. A prior YO on a misdemeanor will not make the child ineligible for YO on the new felony, but a prior YO on a felony conviction will make the child ineligible, and the child will be burdened with a permanent felony criminal record in that circumstance.

A YO adjudication's benefits are somewhat limited if the records of the case are still open to the public. After all, any employer, college or other school could theoretically access the public file and see what the case was really all about and disregard the technicalities of a conviction vs. a YO adjudication. Under the Criminal Procedure Law, CPL 160.50, the records can be sealed and authorization can be given for the destruction of fingerprints, palmprints, photographs, proofs and copies when the outcome of the criminal case is favorable to the child. This typically involves an acquittal after trial, an outright dismissal, a dismissal after an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal pursuant to CPL 170.55/170.56. In the context of a youthful offender adjudication for Unlawful Possession of Marihuana, Penal Law 221.05, records can be sealed and destroyed three years after the offense occurred even after plea and conviction.

The options and protections afforded by a Youthful Offender Adjudication are important and significant and are available to young people throughout New York State including Rockland, Westchester, Putnam and Orange Counties and throughout New York City. It is critical to have an attorney who is familiar with this option, and who can ensure that a young person charged with a criminal offense receives the protections afforded to them by the law.

When a child or youth is accused of a crime, their entire future is at risk. Be smart, prepared and diligent in your effort to protect him or her from a damaged life or even incarceration. Because an alleged mistake a child makes today should not define him or her forever, contact the New York criminal lawyers, juvenile delinquency and youthful offender attorneys, and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC to put your child’s interests, rights and future first.

Call the Former Manhattan Prosecutors and Juvenile Defense Lawyers at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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