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Youthful Offender Act Lawyer in Miami
Also Protecting Juvenile Clients in Fort Lauderdale
The Florida Youthful Offender Act is found in Chapter 958 of Title XLVII of the Florida Statutes. Its purpose was to improve rehabilitation efforts for youthful offenders who were incarcerated so that they could successfully return to their communities, rather than associate with more experienced criminals during incarceration. If you are a parent or juvenile concerned about sentencing in Florida, it’s important to consider whether you’re eligible for sentencing alternatives under the Youthful Offender Act. If you are eligible, the law also gives you improved public service, vocational, counseling, and educational opportunities, and requires you to participate in substance abuse counseling. A skilled Miami juvenile law attorney can help you understand your legal options.
The Florida Youthful Offender Act provides lower courts with sentencing alternatives for adult offenders who are under age 21 but who are also too old to be treated as juveniles within the state criminal justice system.
Under section 958.04(1), a judge can sentence you as a youthful offender if:
- You’re at least 18 years old or you were transferred to be prosecuted by a circuit court’s criminal division under chapter 985
- The court found you guilty or you tendered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere that was accepted by the court for a felony
- You’re younger than age 21
- You’ve not previously been categorized as a youthful offender under the law
If you’re found guilty of a life or capital felony, you can’t be sentenced as a youthful offender under section 958.04(1)(c). For example, if you are convicted of first degree murder, you wouldn’t be eligible for sentencing under the Youthful Offender Act. However, those convicted of first degree felonies are eligible for youthful offender sentencing. A seasoned juvenile law attorney can evaluate your eligibility.
Youthful Offender Sentencing
If you are treated as a youthful offender, there are a number of alternative sentencing options the court can employ. The court might decide to sentence you to remaining under supervision on probation or in a community control program for a period. As a youthful offender, a judge can place you on supervision or in a community control program under whatever conditions it can legally impose upon you for up to 6 years. However, your supervisory period can’t be more than the maximum sentence for the crime you were found guilty of perpetrating.
A judge sentencing you as a youthful offender can require you to serve out a period of incarceration as a condition of probation or community control.
You may be required to serve that period in:
- A department probation and restitution center
- A county facility
- A community residential facility that’s operated and owned by a private or public entity providing those services
If you’re a youthful offender, you can’t be ordered to serve out your period of incarceration in a community correctional facility, as those are defined under section 944.026. Your admission into a center or department facility is contingent on there being beds available. You can’t be placed there for more than 364 days.
Under Florida Statute § 958.04(2), a court can dispose of criminal cases as follows, in lieu of other criminal penalties authorized by law and notwithstanding any imposition of consecutive sentences:
- Up to 6 years of probation or community control
- Up to 364 days incarceration in a county facility, a department probation and restitution center, or a community residential facility that is owned and operated by any public or private entity providing such services
- Split sentence involving up to four years in prison
- Up to six years in prison
Florida Statute § 958.14 also states that an alleged violation of probation or the terms of a community control program can result in alleged youthful offender receiving the maximum sentence for his or her underlying offense.
A judge may choose to split your sentence. In that case, you might be put on community control or probation after you finish an incarceration period. If you are serving out your incarceration in a department facility other than a community residential facility or a probation and restitution center, that period wouldn’t be for under a year or more than 4 years. Your incarceration added together with a period of probation or community control can’t be more than 6 years in total.
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