Youthful Offender in Florida
What is the Youthful Offender Statute?
- The Youthful Offender (YO) Statute allows for a downward departure where the offender is young enough to satisfy the age requirements (under 21) at the time of sentencing.
- In other words, the judge can give you a downward departure below what you score if you are young enough at sentencing.
- The YO Statute is laid out in Chapter 958 of the Florida Statutes.
Florida Statute 958
- Chapter 958 is broken up into sections, including legislative intent, definitions, judicial dispositions.
- The intent of the YO statute: There are many purposes listed here. However, the most important one comes from the bottom portion of 958.021, where it says “It is the further intent of the Legislature to provide an additional sentencing alternative to be used in the discretion of the court when dealing with offenders…”
- 958.04, qualifications for YO Sentencing:
- Any person who is at least 18 years old or who has been transferred for prosecution to the criminal division of the circuit court pursuant to chapter 985,
- Who is found guilty of or who has tendered, and the court has accepted, a plea of no contest or guilty.
- Under 21 at sentencing.
- No previous YO classifications.
- Offense is not a capital or life felony.
- Sentencing: If the Judge decides to sentence a person under youthful offender after deciding they qualify, the judge can sentence as follows:
- The sentence is capped at 6 years.
- The 6 years can consist of incarceration, probation, or both.
- If there is a split sentence (i.e. incarceration and probation) the total sentence must add up to no more than 6 years.
Example of Good YO Candidate and Sentencing: Defendant A goes to trial and loses on a Burglary of a Dwelling Charge. He scores 3 years in prison. He has never used YO Before. He is only 19. The Judge has discretion to depart from the 3 years and sentence the Defendant as a youthful offender. The Judge could decide to sentence the Defendant to a year in prison followed by five years of probation. If the Judge didn’t sentence the Defendant under the Youthful Offender Act he would have been required to sentencing the Defendant to AT LEAST 3 years. By applying the statute, the judge was able to go 2 years below guidelines.
Example of Bad YO Candidate and Sentencing: Defendant B goes to trial and loses on a Murder charge. He is 21 years old at sentencing. Here the judge cannot apply youthful offender because the Defendant is too old AND it’s a capital offense. Both are automatic disqualifiers.