One of the first questions that I ask any caller, as a Criminal Attorney practicing in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, is "how old are you?" I ask this because there is a provision of Michigan Law, Called the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, or HYTA, which allows a person who commits a crime after their 17th, but before their 21st birthday, to keep the whole thing off their record.
In an earlier Blog post, we examined how Drug Possession charges can be kept off anyone's record, regardless of age, if they have no prior Drug Record, under something known as a "7411." The HYTA law can produce the same result, but two features make it very different from 7411:
1. HYTA only applies to people charged with a crime which occurred after their 17th birthday, but before their 21st birthday. That age range is inflexible; if someone is charged with a crime that occurred one day before their 17th birthday, or on the very day of their 21st birthday, they are ineligible. Section 7411 does not have any age limitations.
2. HYTA applies to all kinds of Crimes, not just Drug Possession charges, like section 7411. There are certain exceptions: Crimes punishable by imprisonment for life (Capitol Offenses), Major Drug Crimes and all Traffic Offenses.
The reasoning behind this law is the recognition that young people, on occasion, do dumb things. An instance of bad judgment before one has the chance to mature and think like an adult should not necessarily handicap that person for life with a Criminal Record, which can have all kinds of negative consequences for future advancement. HYTA is equally applicable to Felonies and Misdemeanors, with the exceptions mentioned above. HYTA status allows a person to prove to the Court that they can stay out of trouble long enough to warrant dismissing the whole case without ever placing it upon their Public Record.
The actual name of the law, Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, may conjure up some image of "trainees" in boot-camp regalia, but in truth, there's nothing like that. A person who has been granted HYTA (also called YTA) by a Court must, at a minimum, be placed on Probation. A Judge cannot order more than 3 years of Probation, but the Judge can also include incarceration as part of its' Sentence. In other words, being granted HTYA status has no effect on whether the Judge sends someone to Jail, although, to be sure, in the vast majority of cases where HYTA is granted, there is no incarceration ordered.
HYTA status can be used to avoid a Drug Possession conviction, just like section 7411. And, because HYTA status means a person receives no conviction for an offense upon their record, any Driver's License Suspension that would otherwise apply if a person were to be convicted does not apply under HYTA. This means no License Sanctions. In fact, technically speaking, a person may avoid a Drug Conviction using HYTA, and then go on to later avoid another, subsequent Drug Possession conviction, using section 7411.
HYTA accomplishes what some people think of, or talk about as a "deferment," or "under advisement." Like section 7411, the decision to grant, or not grant HYTA status is in the Judge's discretion. This means that it's entirely up to the Judge. Often, plea deals are negotiated between the Defense Attorney, the Prosecutor and the Court which essentially "guarantee" that HYTA will be granted, or at least provide a backup plan if the Court decides not to go along. Even in cases where the Prosecutor goes on record as opposing that the Court grant someone HYTA status, the final decision is always up to the Judge.
Being granted HYTA status is just like being granted section 7411 status; the person who gets this break must complete a term of Probation successfully. Thus, picking up any new charges while on Probation, or failing any Drug Tests, or otherwise not doing what the Judge has ordered will cause the person to have to reappear in front of their Judge for what's known as a "Probation Violation." This means that the Judge will consider what additional punishment to impose for the Violation, and that usually involves the very real possibility of "revoking" HYTA status, meaning that the whole deal to keep it off the person's record is set aside and the Criminal Charge and Conviction will go on their record.
For those that recognize a break when they see one, and who can simply avoid getting in any new trouble, can pass drug tests, and who can likewise do a few things the Judge orders them to do, the benefits of HTYA are priceless. No record, no conviction, and no negative consequences will follow them around for an instance of youthful poor judgment.