HYTA Probation: Everything You Need to Know
If you are over 17 years of age and plead “guilty” to a criminal offense in Michigan, things may not end well for you. Pleading guilty means you are admitting to a crime and agreeing to the penalty that goes along with it. No matter if you are 17 or 95 years old, the law treats you the same.
With that being said, there are times, believe it or not, when pleading guilty can work to your advantage. For example, pleading guilty may be advantageous if you are between 17 and 25 years old and you committed a crime. This is because you may qualify for Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA).
MCL 762.11, which is Michigan’s HYTA statute, defines who is eligible for the HYTA program and who is not. HYTA allows young adults who plead guilty to committing a crime avoid having a conviction on their record.
The main difference between taking a plea deal and pleading guilty inorder to take advantage of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is that the former goes on your record, while the latter does not.
HYTA probation is not applicable for all persons, but if you are between the ages of 17 to 26, you may be eligible. This may be the last chance you get to keep a felony from being on your record.
Reasoning Behind Michigan‘s HYTA Law
According to experts, the brain of a person aged 25 and under is still in the developmental stage, meaning these individuals are prone to make unwise decisions. This is why persons below the age of 26 qualify for HYTA probation.
The rationale for creating the HYTA program was that a criminal conviction and sentencing for offenses committed by youthful offenders could be too harsh for mistakes resulting from the offender’s immaturity.
HYTA status allows for a deferred judgment by the court. In other words, the crime in question is not entered into the Michigan State Police records as a criminal conviction, unless the offender fails to complete their probation.
Whatever charge you had and when you plead guilty will be sealed and dismissed under HYTA. As a result, the offender is not obligated to disclose the crime when asked on any type of application if they have been convicted of a crime.
HYTA Does Not Apply to All Offenses
Besides age, the type of offense involved is a significant factor in determining whether an individual is eligible for HYTA status. Crimes where the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is not applicable include:
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree
- Conspiracy to Commit Either CSC 1st degree or CSC 2nd degree
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree: Person 13 thru 15
- Major Controlled Substance Offenses
- Traffic Offenses; for example, a DUI related traffic offense
- Offenses Carrying a Maximum Penalty of Life in Prison Under the Michigan Penal Code
The circumstances surrounding a criminal offense may also be a factor in determining a person’s eligibility for HYTA status. The court cannot assign HYTA status to an individual if:
- They have been convicted or adjudicated for an offense requiring sex offender registration on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry before the offense in question. For example, criminal sexual conduct (CSC) and further listed offenses.
- They are charged with any offense requiring registration as a sex offender under the Sex Offender’s Registration Act (SORA) and cannot prove in court by providing clear and convincing evidence that they are not likely to engage in a criminal offense in the future.
HYTA Status Application
The judge presiding over a youthful offenders’ case can grant HYTA status if the defendant is within the eligible age of designation and the charge is covered by the HYTA statute.
While the prosecuting attorney can voice their opinion as a matter of record regarding whether or not a defendant should receive HYTA status, their statement does not limit a judge’s discretion. The Michigan Supreme Court and Appellate Courts have opined that HYTA status should apply to all individuals within the eligible age bracket and crime, but there are always exceptions. It is up to the defendant to prove that they are a good candidate for HYTA status designation.
To prove eligibility for HYTA, the defendant, through their lawyer, will need to present to the judge reasons “why” they are a good candidate for HYTA. The right attorney will know exactly how to handle this. The court is particularly interested in knowing that the defendant takes responsibility for the crime (you have to plead guilty), whether or not your parents are aware of the situation, and that the parents are taking steps to help address the defendant’s behavior. A lawyer who is familiar with how the HYTA program works can also help better the chances of a candidate’s eligibility.
What Happens After HYTA Sentencing
The first step in HYTA sentencing is that the defendant pleads guilty. After that, the defendant will receive the terms of their sentence, such as the length of time the defendant will be on probation, the length of time the defendant will have to go to HYTA prison, fines, frequency of drug and alcohol testing, having no contact with the victim, or even community service.
Depending on the circumstances, incarceration may also be an option. A defendant who receives the benefit of HYTA can still be sentenced to prison time.
When incarceration is applicable, which is within the judge’s discretion, a defendant can be sentenced to what is commonly called HYTA prison. The main differences between actual prison and HYTA prison are:
1. HYTA prison houses only young adults up to the age of 25
2. HYTA offenders serve a flat sentence and do not require a parole board hearing for release
This is unlike other offenders sentenced to the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).
Under normal circumstances where incarceration does not apply, the judge can sentence you to HYTA probation for up to three years. If an offender completes the program without any further trouble with the law, the court will vacate the guilty plea and dismiss the charges. This means that all records related to the charges are sealed and cannot appear in a background check. However, the records will still be accessible in the Michigan State Police’s non–public record and can be used to enhance future sentencing for repeat offenders.
If there is evidence to prove an offender’s HYTA probation violation or attempted violation, the offender can lose HYTA status and have their conviction record placed on the public record. For an offender to maintain his or her HYTA status, they must:
- Report to the probation officer on schedule
- Remain in the area designated for their HYTA probation
- Avoid brushes with the law or new charges with criminal offenses
- Prompt payment of supervisory fees, court fees, and fines
- Engaging in full-time employment or enrolling in a course
- Complete court–ordered requirements, such as community service, attending anger management classes, paying restitution, seeing certified sex offender counselors, and/or obtaining substance abuse evaluation.
Technically, a probation officer can seek probation revocation for simple infractions, but that is rare. Often, it happens if an offender exhibits blatant failure to report or is charged with new offenses under the Michigan Penal Code.
A probation officer’s petition to have HYTA probation revoked is not final. Working with a Michigan criminal defense attorney can help fight for you to maintain your HYTA status. Some options for keeping your HYTA status after violating your terms would be taking a plea and serving some time in jail, extending the term of your probation, or changing the terms.
Laws Similar to HYTA
The HYTA program is not the only way a person could get their criminal charges dismissed. There are other laws under Michigan Law that you could explore to maintain a clean record. These include:
- MCL 4a: Under this section of Michigan Law, persons facing domestic violence offenses as first-time offenders can have their judgment suspended if they comply with the terms of their probation. This option is only applicable with the consent of the victim and the prosecutor. The conviction is set aside and not entered into the offender’s public record at the end of the probation period.
- MCL 7411: Drug possession offenses vary based on the classification of the drug in question. Major controlled substance offense-related charges, including drugs such as methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine, carry pretty severe sentences and offenders may not be eligible for a dismissal under MCL 333.7411. However, if the charges involve possession of analogues, LSD, and/or marijuana, the offender may be eligible for a conviction dismissal upon fulfilling the terms of their probation.
- MCL 621: This is commonly referred to as the clean slate or expungement law. This section of the law allows for sealing records for persons convicted of minor offenses. There are several requirements for eligibility for expungement under this section, so you may want to talk with your attorney to establish your eligibility. Learn how a sex crime can be expunged here.
How a Criminal Record Affects Your Life
The best thing about HYTA status is that the offender walks away from their brush with the law without any criminal record, at least not one in the public domain. Having a criminal record can have devastating consequences on a person’s life, including:
● Reduced Employment Opportunities
Some employment opportunities require that candidates must not have certain classes of offenses on their record. For example, if a job entails working with children, a sexual assault record means the person can not get the job.
● Child Custody and Adoption Challenges
A record of an offense, such as domestic abuse or criminal sexual conduct, can work against you when fighting for custody of your children or when seeking to adopt children in the future.
● Accommodation Challenges
Like employers, landlords too may not readily admit persons with criminal records in their rental properties, meaning an offender may experience accommodation problems and not be able to rent or purchase the home of their dreams.
Other consequences of a bad record include problems getting college admission, accessing government funding, or even losing driving privileges.
Contact Attorney Nicole Blank Becker if You Are Interested in Determining Your HYTA Eligibility
If you are aged anywhere from 17 to 25, you may be eligible for HYTA status designation. However, getting the designation will take more than falling into the eligible age bracket. You will need to engage a defense attorney that has experience defending individuals who received HYTA.
If you live in Michigan, your best chance at a successful HYTA designation would be working with criminal defense Attorney Nicole Blank Becker of Blank Law, PC. Nicole has over 20 years of experience in Michigan state and federal law, part of which included serving as the Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit and the Child Abuse Unit in Macomb County, as well as a prosecutor in Wayne County (Detroit). That means Nicole can look at a case from both perspectives to create the most solid defense possible for you.
Do not let a childish mistake affect the rest of your life. Call Blank Law, PC at (248) 515-6583 the moment any law enforcement agencies contact you or when a detective calls you to establish an attorney–client relationship with Nicole immediately. Keep in mind that all confidential or sensitive information you say to her remains exactly that, 100% confidential.