HYTA – Holmes Youthful Trainee Act
At Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, we believe in second chances for our clients, especially young adults. And for good reason: studies have shown that the portion of a person’s brain that regulates impulse control continues to develop well into the average person’s late-20’s. Fortunately, Michigan law, M.C.L., § 762.11 provides a “break” for young people who plead guilty to an offense. The name of this law is called the “Holmes Youthful Trainee Act” and is often referred to simply as an H-Y-T-A (pronounced “hi-Ta”). Getting the benefit of a HYTA is not a given, but if you are fortunate enough to qualify for a HYTA, it can allow you to walk away from your case without any criminal record, provided you successfully complete probation.
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act provides:
(1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3), if an individual pleads guilty to a criminal offense, committed on or after the individual’s seventeenth birthday but before his or her twenty-fourth birthday, the court of record having jurisdiction of the criminal offense may, without entering a judgment of conviction and with the consent of that individual, consider and assign that individual to the status of youthful trainee. If the offense was committed on or after the individual’s twenty-first birthday but before his or her twenty-fourth birthday, the individual shall not be assigned to youthful trainee status without the consent of the prosecuting attorney.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to any of the following:
(a) A felony for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life.
(b) A major controlled substance offense.
(c) A traffic offense.
(d) A violation, attempted violation, or conspiracy to violate section 520b, 520c, 520d, or 520e of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520b, 750.520c, 750.520d, and 750.520e, other than section 520d(1)(a) or 520e(1)(a) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520d and 750.520e.
(e) A violation, attempted violation, or conspiracy to violate section 520g of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520g, with the intent to commit a violation of section 520b, 520c, 520d, or 520e of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520b, 750.520c, 750.520d, and 750.520e, other than section 520d(1)(a) or 520e(1)(a) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520d and 750.520e.
(3) The court shall not assign an individual to the status of youthful trainee if any of the following apply:
(a) The individual was previously convicted of or adjudicated for a listed offense for which registration is required under the sex offenders registration act, 1994 PA 295, MCL 28.721 to 28.732.
(b) If the individual is charged with a listed offense for which registration is required under the sex offenders registration act, 1994 PA 295, MCL 28.721 to 28.732, the individual fails to carry the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is not likely to engage in further listed offenses.
(c) The court determines that the offense involved any of the following:
(i) A factor set forth in section 520b(1)(a) to (h) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520b.
(ii) A factor set forth in section 520c(1)(a) to (l) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520c.
(iii) A factor set forth in section 520d(1)(b) to (e) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520d.
(iv) A factor set forth in section 520e(1)(b) to (f) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.520e.
(4) As used in this section:
(a) “Listed offense” means that term as defined in section 2 of the sex offenders registration act, 1994 PA 295, MCL 28.722.
(b) “Traffic offense” means a violation of the Michigan vehicle code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.1 to 257.923, or a violation of a local ordinance substantially corresponding to that act, that involves the operation of a vehicle and, at the time of the violation, is a felony or a misdemeanor.
What is HYTA?
In layman’s terms, HYTA is Michigan’s attempt to codify a second chance for youthful offenders. It is an opportunity for a young person accused of a crime to prove that the criminal activity he or she engaged was was an aberration that is not likely to happen again. HYTA evidences a legislative desire that persons between the ages of 17 and under 24 not be stigmatized with criminal records for unreflective and immature acts. Accordingly a defendant who pleads guilty to an offense and who receives a sentence under HYTA does not receive a conviction. Rather, they are assigned to the status of youthful trainee.
Do I Qualify for a HYTA?
HYTA is only available to defendants accused of committing a criminal offense between the ages of 17 and under 24 years of age. If a defendant is older than 24, but is alleged to have committed the offense when he or she was 17 to 23 years of age, that defendant is still eligible for assignment to HYTA status.
HYTA is only available to those defendants who plead guilty. That means that if a defendant wants to avail himself or herself to HYTA status, he or she cannot contest the charges at trial, but must plead guilty to the offense and admit responsibility.
HYTA is available for most Michigan crimes. However, it is not available for felony offenses that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, major controlled substance offenses, or traffic offenses. If a defendant is charged with these excluded offenses, the only way to obtain HYTA is to convince the prosecuting attorney to allow the defendant to plead to an HYTA eligible offense.
A defendant is still eligible for HYTA even if they have prior convictions, prior HYTA adjudications, prior .7411 sentences, or any other prior advisory or diversion status. However, the trial court will certainly consider those prior crimes and sentences in determining whether HYTA is appropriate in this matter and may deny HYTA status on those grounds.
How Does a Sentence Under HYTA Work?
When the accused is under the age of 21, the discretion to grant HYTA status to an eligible defendant lies entirely with the trial judge presiding over the case. While the prosecuting attorney may voice an opinion on the record as to whether a defendant should or should not receive a HYTA sentence, that opinion is in no way binding upon the court. When the accused is more than 21 years old, the prosecutor must support a sentence under HYTA. The Michigan Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals have both opined that HYTA should be liberally granted. That being said, it is still up to the defendant and his or her attorney to show the judge that he or she is a good candidate for HYTA status. Letters from people in the community and especially from the defendants parents are often an effective way to show the judge that a particular defendant is worthy of a second chance. Judges especially like to see that the parents of the defendant are aware of the matter and are also taking their own steps to address the defendant’s behavior. We have also had clients perform community service on their own, write a letter of apology to the victims (if any exist) and pay restitution prior to sentencing in order to convince the court that our client is a person worthy of a second chance.
HYTA and the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA)
HYTA is available for certain sex offenses that would otherwise require registration on the Sex Offender Registration Act List (SORA). An HYTA sentence for a sex offense is a tremendous benefit as it allows the defendant to avoid registering on the sex offender list. While HYTA is available for most SORA offenses, it is not available for:
- Criminal Sexual Conduct – 1st Degree
- Criminal Sexual Conduct – 2nd Degree
- 1.Any Criminal Sexual Conduct that is alleged to have been committed by force
- 1.Any Criminal Sexual Conduct where the defendant was aware that the victim was mentally incapable of consent, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless
- 1.Criminal Sexual Conduct involving a victim under the age of 13
The process for obtaining an HYTA sentence for an otherwise eligible sex offense is significantly more difficult than obtaining an HYTA sentence for a non-sex offense. The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act requires defendants who plead guilty to a SORA offense to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is not likely commit any further listed SORA offenses. Clear and convincing evidence means that it is substantially more likely than not that the defendant will not commit a SORA listed offense in the future.
The attorneys of Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law have successfully obtained HYTA sentences for clients accused of sex offenses. In many cases we were able to meet the clear and convincing standard by having our clients obtain psychological profiles from certified sex offender counselors indicating that our clients did not meet the psychological profile of a sex offender and posed a low likelihood to reoffend. In our experience, this tends to be the minimum requirement necessary to obtain a HYTA sentence for a SORA listed offense.
What Happens If I Receive a HYTA Sentence?
A defendant who is sentence under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act will in most cases receive a sentence similar to the sentence he or she would have received had he or she not been HYTA eligible. Typical HYTA sentences include probation, fines, and community service. A period of incarceration may also be included in the sentence depending upon the severity of the crime. The maximum term of probation for an HYTA is 3 years.
A defendant can receive a HYTA sentence and still be sentenced to the Michigan Department of Corrections if the trial judge determines that such a sentence is warranted. HYTA offenders are housed in a special unit located at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer County, Michigan. Unlike other offenders sentenced to the MDOC, HYTA offenders serve a flat sentence (one year rather than 1 to 5 years) and are not subject to a parole board in order to get released.
If the offender completes the HYTA program successfully without committing any other offenses and without getting in any further trouble, the trial court will vacate the conviction, and dismiss the charges. All records of the proceedings and charges will be sealed and will stay out of the public record. A non-public record of the proceedings will still be kept and will be accessible to law enforcement and the courts for purposes of determining whether or not the defendant has ever availed himself or herself to HYTA in the past.
If a defendant violates the terms of his or her probation, the trial court may revoke his or her HYTA status and the record of conviction would be entered into the defendant’s public criminal record.
Contact Springstead & Bartish law For a Free Case Evaluation and Consultation and See if You Are Eligible for a HYTA in Your Case
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is a tremendous law that provides youthful offenders with a second chance. A criminal conviction can follow a person around for the rest of his or her life. It is imperative that HYTA eligible defendants contact an attorney to assist them with the process.
The attorneys of Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law have handled hundreds of HYTA cases throughout West Michigan. We know what it takes to convince the judges throughout West Michigan that an HYTA eligible defendant is worthy of a second chance.
Contact us today. We are here to help.