This is the second in a series of “Short Version” posts which summarizes the main points of a much larger, prior Blog post. In this article, we’ll boil down the essentials of HYTA, which is a tool that I use, as Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in the Detroit-area, to keep a Criminal Charge and Conviction off of a person’s record if the Offense occurred before their 21st birthday.
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) allows a person who commits a Criminal Offense after their 17th, but prior to their 21st birthday, to keep the whole thing off their Record if their Lawyer can get the Court to agree to handle the case that way. The key thing here is that HYTA is discretionary, meaning that the decision whether to allow it or not is completely up to the Judge.
A person must first qualify for HYTA before a Judge can even consider granting it or not. In order to qualify, the Offense must occur before the person’s 21st birthday. This is an important point, because sometimes a person can be close to their 21st birthday when an Offense occurs, but not be actually charged with it until after their birthday. Since the Court only looks to the date the Offense was committed, even a person who has long since turned 21 is still eligible for HYTA, as long as the Offense occurred before that birthday.
Beyond the issue of the person’s age, there are a number of Offenses which cannot be kept off a person’s record under HYTA. The most significant of these are what are known as “Capital Offenses,” meaning crimes like 1st Degree Murder, which carries a penalty of up to life in prison. Likewise, certain Criminal Sexual Conduct charges, and Major Controlled Substance Offenses cannot be kept off a person’s record (the technical term is “Deferred”) under HYTA. Also, Traffic Offenses (like DUI and Driving While License Suspended) cannot be handled under HYTA.
Usually, if I’m representing someone who otherwise qualifies, I will seek to have the Prosecutor agree to handle the case under HYTA, even though the final decision is the Judge’s alone. Even so, if the Prosecutor can be persuaded to agree to handle a case under HYTA, it goes a long way toward persuading the Court to go along, as well. While it’s helpful to have the Prosecutor agree, their lack of cooperation is not fatal to the chances of having a case kept off a person’s record under HYTA. I have handled cases where the Prosecutor has either not agreed to go along, but has not openly objected to HYTA, and where the Prosecutor has outright placed their objection to a HYTA deferral on the record, and have still been able to persuade the Judge to go along, anyway.
Once the Court agrees to HYTA, the person charged with the crime (the Defendant) must satisfactorily complete Probation. If they Violate Probation, one of the first things that can happen is that the Judge can “revoke” their HYTA status, and the Criminal charge and conviction wind up on their record. Of course, when a person faces a Probation Violation, beyond trying to keep their HYTA status intact, a Lawyer also tries to keep them out of Jail.
The best thing about HYTA is that absolutely nothing winds up on the Defendant’s record. Even if the person were to have fought the case at Trial and won, the original charge and subsequent acquittal would still show up on their record. In every sense of the word, HYTA is an opportunity to have a truly “clean” record.