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What About a Youthful Offender Statute similar to Alabama and/or Florida?

I am interested in overcriminalization.  I think legislatures tend to not trust judges with sentencing decisions.  What should be done is more judicial discretion and then make sure solid discreet men and women should be appointed to the bench as a priority.

In my efforts to try to find opportunities to give chances to young offenders to reform and repent rather than incarceration (the system that has obviously failed in this nation) I came up with the grand larceny threshold (not claiming it as my idea – I learned it as a member of the Richmond Crusade for Voters which I think I still am!) that I advocated at this blog today.

Now I found this statute recently:  The Alabama Youthful Offender Act.  Here’s the first and next to last section of this statute:

(a) A person charged with a crime which was committed in his minority but was not disposed of in juvenile court and which involves moral turpitude or is subject to a sentence of commitment for one year or more shall, and, if charged with a lesser crime may be investigated and examined by the court to determine whether he should be tried as a youthful offender, provided he consents to such examination and to trial without a jury where trial by jury would otherwise be available to him. If the defendant consents and the court so decides, no further action shall be taken on the indictment or information unless otherwise ordered by the court as provided in subsection (b) of this section.

(b) After such investigation and examination, the court, in its discretion, may direct that the defendant be arraigned as a youthful offender, and no further action shall be taken on the indictment or information; or the court may decide that the defendant shall not be arraigned as a youthful offender, whereupon the indictment or information shall be deemed filed.

***

(a) No determination made under the provisions of this chapter shall disqualify any youth for public office or public employment, operate as a forfeiture of any right or privilege or make him ineligible to receive any license granted by public authority, and such determination shall not be deemed a conviction of crime; provided, however, that if he is subsequently convicted of crime, the prior adjudication as youthful offender shall be considered.

(b) The fingerprints and photographs and other records of a person adjudged a youthful offender shall not be open to public inspection; provided, however, that the court may, in its discretion, permit the inspection of papers or records.

What this means is if an offender is under 21 (the age of majority at the time this law was passed and apparently that is what the Alabama Supreme Court held in 1997) and the offender is placed in the Youthful Offender status, and IF the offender complies with all terms, the offense is treated as if it was not an conviction (except for sentencing for a future offense, if any) and he or she is not a felon.  they can vote, hold office and be a upright citizen of the state and nation.  (I am not sure how this law affects the right under Federal law to own or possess a firearm.)

Florida has a similar law.  This is the pertinent section of this statute:

958.04 Judicial disposition of youthful offenders.

(1) The court may sentence as a youthful offender any person:

(a) Who is at least 18 years of age or who has been transferred for prosecution to the criminal division of the circuit court pursuant to chapter 985;
(b) Who is found guilty of or who has tendered, and the court has accepted, a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to a crime that is, under the laws of this state, a felony if the offender is younger than 21 years of age at the time sentence is imposed; and
(c) Who has not previously been classified as a youthful offender under the provisions of this act; however, a person who has been found guilty of a capital or life felony may not be sentenced as a youthful offender under this act.

(2) In lieu of other criminal penalties authorized by law and notwithstanding any imposition of consecutive sentences, the court shall dispose of the criminal case as follows:

(a) The court may place a youthful offender under supervision on probation or in a community control program, with or without an adjudication of guilt, under such conditions as the court may lawfully impose for a period of not more than 6 years. Such period of supervision may not exceed the maximum sentence for the offense for which the youthful offender was found guilty.  (Blogger’s note:  Words bolded were done by me)

 

The records of a youthful offender are sealed as well.  I draw your attention to the bolded words:  “with or without an adjudication of guilt”.  Now I am not allowed to practice law in Florida but I would say if a Virginia law had words like that it means that if the court chooses, he or she may give the adult but youthful offender the chance to keep his or her record clean.  (There is a fierce debate among and between the judiciary and the General Assembly about diversion of adult felonies in cases where the statute does not specifically authorize it.)  The Florida law states that only capital or felonies with a maximum life sentence are beyond the reach of this law.

What’s the point Sanders?  I would not say Florida or Alabama are liberal jurisdictions (although Florida is more progressive than Alabama by far!) yet they found these laws to be helpful to the administration of justice.  It might be good incentive to give some young adult offenders a one time chance (especially if it is a non-violent offense) to keep a record clean.

Perhaps it might be good to study these laws (another study bill!) or even discuss and debate a Virginia Youthful Offender Act.  (We have acts for such offenders in this Commonwealth but they do not expunge or seal a record but rather mitigate the sentence to boot camp or similar program.)  I am not yet advocating such a law or how far the law should go but overcriminalization and incarceration needs new answers.  This post could start such a debate.

 

 

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood “Sandy” Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia’s first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

4 Responses to “What About a Youthful Offender Statute similar to Alabama and/or Florida?”

  1. Sam Rothstein says:

    The first thing on that Agenda for the GA in Virginia should be the ELECTION of JUDGES over the current practice of the General Assembly appointing judges who then practice the QUID PRO QUO of giving the \”legal business\” to the very senators and delegates who appointed them.

    Chris Peace, Ryan McDougle, and Tommy Norment seem to be reaping the rewards of the judges they appointed. Just to name a few.

    • Vinh Huang says:

      You are very astute. Former Henrico Delegate and recent Republican State Senate Candidate in the 12th District Bill Janis is now \”Begging\” for an appointment to the JUDGESHIP opening in Louisa County- moving to Louisa to establish residency, working his Republican Mobsters in the GA for being a good soldier and working to get them elected: Tom Garrett now running for Congress and Peter Farrell who \”inherited\” Janis\’ seat when Cantor told him to vacate it for Tom Farrell\’s son, the CEO of Dominion Power- big Cantor donor.

      Lifetime appointment, comfy salary, retirement, Benefits, etc nice work for being a loyal Party Boss.

      Appointed Judges in VA are part of the Corruption.

    • Juris Doctored in 78 says:

      Delegate Peace is rewarded with Guardian-ad-Litem work by the courts and McDougle and Norment earn six figures as Commissioner of Accounts in their respective counties.

      Basically you don\’t have to work if you get that gig from the judges you appoint.

      This legal work should be sent out for Bid not given to the blokes who appointed the JUDGE.

  2. Thanks to all three of you for coming by and as one who sought a judgeship, I can tell you that Churchill’s alleged aphorism about democracy being the worst form of government until you consider the alternatives is very apt for how we select (and remove) judges and justices. If we have direct election of judges it would be overly political and partisan. If we adopt a “Missouri plan” we simply move the politics from political/elected officials to un-elected boards/commissions appointed by politicians. So the answer is to keep elected officials accountable for all there decisions.

    I do think the accusation that the judges appoint their legislator friends with positions is unfair. Has it happened that judges curry favor with legislators? Sure. It is also the other way around. Judges can be removed for running afoul of legislators, too. But the system is not inherently corrupt; be careful about making that accusation.

    I cannot confirm the Janis accusation but at the risk of starting more trouble (Hey, I’m a blogger, it comes with the territory) I am reasonably sure Janis would make a fine judge.

    Sandy

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    Tom White Says:

    Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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