The last article that I wrote on this blog was about a program called “Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration” held at Lansing Community College. The program was designed to help community youths avoid a future of incarceration.
One thing that I wanted to use this blog to talk about based on that program was a program called the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, or HYTA, as it will be referred to in this article. HYTA is vital for those between the ages of 17 and 21 when it comes to the legal process. HYTA allows for the slate to essentially be wiped clean after the defendant completes the terms of their probation.
I do want to first say that this article is intended to just be a brief introduction to what is available with the HYTA process. Any defendant should speak at length with their attorney about their options, I want to raise some points today that hopefully will be helpful at looking at HYTA in a general way, as well as sharing my experiences with this deferral program.
A Defendant is eligible for HYTA when pleading guilty to an offense that occurred between their 17th and 21st birthdays. This is important to note, HYTA kicks in based on when the offense occurs, not the date that criminal proceedings are brought or when the guilty plea is placed on the record. There are some crimes where the Defendant is not eligible for HYTA, such as First Degree Murder, or felonies that carry life imprisonment as a penalty, or a major controlled substance offense.
For most cases, it is important for a defendant to speak with their attorney about HYTA early and often. And the reason why I am writing about this is that it ties in directly with the Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration program. HYTA is given at the discretion of the judge, and the intention is to see that someone given HYTA status has the potential to turn their life around and avoid getting swept into a system that so often has incarceration as commonplace for young people.
HYTA at its core is a second chance. I first began to work with youths on HYTA status while doing an externship with the Washtenaw County Public Defenders Office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have worked with HYTA as a practicing criminal defense attorney in Lansing, Michigan. Seeing a client want to take advantage of this second chance and make the most of it in terms of getting their life on the right track is great to see as an Attorney.
The reason why I mention it being important to talk to your attorney early about HYTA is because sometimes the prosecutors will not make HYTA a part of their plea offer. Because HYTA is at the discretion of the judge, the prosecution has several options. To take no stance on HYTA, to reject a HYTA petition or to support a HYTA petition. Speaking to your attorney early on in the process will allow them to find out early on what sort of stance the Prosecutor will take regarding your case. Also, it is important to note that the final decision on HYTA is left to the judge. So, even if the prosecutor or probation does not recommend HYTA, it is something that your lawyer can still argue for on your behalf.
Most important in this process is that the defendant take action in terms of getting on the right track. I have always described HYTA as a privilege. I feel that is a good way to look at it, because the judge does not need to grant a defendant this status. If you complete HYTA status the defendant winds up without a conviction on their record. When looking at a chance to wipe a Felony off of your record, it is very important for defendants to be active in this process.
Like I mentioned earlier, this a short introduction to HYTA. It is something that all youths that may find themselves involved with the legal process should be aware of. Asking your attorney to fight for your second chance is something that every defendant should aim for.