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Youthful Offender Statute

The sections contained in Chapter 958 of Title XLVII to the Florida Statutes are referred to as the “Florida Youthful Offender Act.” These laws were enacted to provide certain alleged offenders who are not young enough to be considered juveniles but are old enough to be tried in adult criminal court with an alternative, less stringent sentencing program.

Florida Statute § 958.021 establishes the legislative intent of this act, and describes the purpose of the chapter as being “to improve the chances of correction and successful return to the community of youthful offenders sentenced to imprisonment by providing them with enhanced vocational, educational, counseling, or public service opportunities and by preventing their association with older and more experienced criminals during the terms of their confinement.” In short, the Youthful Offender Act serves as a form of downward departure for eligible alleged offenders so maximum sentences are capped and judges are allowed to issue sentences that are less than the statutory minimums.

St. Petersburg Youthful Offender Lawyer

If you are a young adult who was recently arrested in Florida, it is in your best interest to have highly experienced legal counsel who can help you face the fewest possible penalties. Morris Law Firm, P.A. fights to achieve the most favorable outcomes for clients in Pinellas County, Manatee County, Pasco County, and Hillsborough County.

Pinellas County youthful offender statute attorney Melinda Morris has an extensive legal background that includes time as a felony prosecutor and an assistant state attorney. Our firm will provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call (727) 388-4736 to arrange a free, confidential consultation.

Florida Youthful Offender Statute Overview

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Youthful Offender Statute Eligibility in Pinellas County

There are two ways that a young adult may be sentenced as a youthful offender. Florida Statute § 958.04(1) states that a court can sentence a person as a youthful offender is he or she satisfies the following requirements:

  • Is at least 18 years of age or has been transferred for prosecution to the criminal division of the circuit court;
  • Is found guilty of or has tendered, and the court has accepted, a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to a crime that is, under Florida laws, a felony if the offender is younger than 21 years of age at the time sentence is imposed; and
  • Has not previously been classified as a youthful offender under the provisions of this act.

If the court does not sentence a person as a youth offender, it is still possible that the Florida Department of Corrections may do so. The Department of Corrections can classify an inmate as a youthful offender if he or she is:

  • 24 years old or under with a sentence of 10 years or less; or
  • 19 years old or under with a sentence of more than 10 years and considered a vulnerable inmate whose safety may be jeopardized in an adult institution.

A person who has been found guilty of a capital or life felony is ineligible to be sentenced as a youthful offender.

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Sentencing Under Florida Youthful Offender Statute

If it is determined that a person qualifies to be sentenced as a youthful offender and the court agrees to this sentencing, then alleged offenders may receive far more lenient sentences they would otherwise receive as adults under traditional sentencing. Florida Statute § 958.04(2) allows for probation, incarceration, or a combination of the following sentencing options:

  • Up to six years of probation or in a community control program, with or without an adjudication of guilt. The period of probation or community control cannot exceed the maximum sentence for the offense for which the youthful offender was found guilty;
  • Up to 364 days of incarceration in a county facility, a department probation and restitution center, or a community residential facility owned and operated by any public or private entity providing such services as a condition of probation or community control;
  • Split sentence involving probation or community control upon completion of any specified period of incarceration. The period of incarceration cannot exceed four years, and the combined period of probation or community control and incarceration cannot exceed six years; or
  • Up to six years in custody of the Department of Corrections, provided that any such commitment does not exceed the maximum sentence for the offense for which the youthful offender has been convicted.

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Pinellas County Violations of Probation Under Youthful Offender Statute

When a youth offender is sentenced to probation, he or she will be expected to satisfy several requirements for his or her probation officer and abide by the rules of the department. The consequences a probation violation depend on whether a violation is deemed to be substantive or technical.

The difference between these two types of violations can have a significant impact on how the court responds:

  • Substantive violations of probation generally involve youthful offenders having been arrested or charged with a new criminal offense while on probation; or
  • Technical violations of probation generally involve youthful offenders failing to abide by complete certain terms or conditions of their probation, such as notifying probation officers of changes of address, leaving a county without permission, or failing to pay fines or court fees.

Under Florida Statute § 958.14, a youthful offender cannot be committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections for a substantive violation for a period longer than the maximum sentence for the offense for which he or she was found guilty, with credit for time served while incarcerated. In the case of a technical or nonsubstantive violation, he or she cannot be committed for a period longer than six years or for a period longer than the maximum sentence for the offense for which he or she was found guilty, whichever is less, with credit for time served while incarcerated.

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Find A Youthful Offender Statute Lawyer in St. Petersburg

Are you a young adult who has been arrested in Florida? Make sure that you have legal representation who will aggressively protect your interests.

Morris Law Firm, P.A. defends clients all over St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, and surrounding communities. Call (727) 388-4736 today to take advantage of a free consultation that will allow our Pinellas County youthful offender attorneys to review your case.