Does Florida Throw Away the Keys for Youthful Offenders?

The Florida Legislature has developed a sentencing scheme in which certain felony offenders under the age of 21 at the time of sentencing, can secure a more lenient sentence than other older offenders. This “Youthful Offender” designation is a way that the sentencing judge can avoid some of the harsh penalties of felonies that are not considered life or capital felony crimes, such as, auto burglary or residential burglary as robbery.

Who Qualifies as Youthful Offender?

Our attorneys routinely seek Youthful Offender status for our clients who according to Fla. Stat. § 958.04(1) qualify as follows:

  • Are At least 18 years old or who have been direct filed from juvenile court for adult prosecution,
  • Has either entered a No Contest Plea, Guilty Plea, or has been found guilty of a capital or other life felony, and is younger than 21 years old at the time of sentencing,
  • Has not previously been classified a Youthful Offender.

If a sentencing judge determines that he will treat someone under the age of 21 as a Youthful Offender, the court can impose any of the following sentencing options, as provided under Fla. Stat. § 958.04(2):

  • Place the offender on probation or community control for a period not to exceed 6 years, or in the case of a 3° Felony, 5 years. The judge can withhold the adjudication of guilt as well,
  • Not more than 364 days in the county jail, probation and restitution center, or community residential facility, as a condition of probation or community control,
  • Impose a split sentence where probation or community control follows the completion of a prison sentence not to exceed 4 years. The total split sentence length shall not exceed 6 years, or
  • A sentence in Florida State Prison not to exceed 6 years, or in the case of a 3° Felony, 5 years. The sentencing judge can also recommend the offender be released upon completion of a youthful offender program while serving the sentence.

While these penalties are still significant for someone who has recently become an adult, this sentencing option can allow the sentencing judge to impose a lawful sentence for serious felony charges that is significantly less severe than the presumptive sentence based upon the Florida Punishment Code Guideline Scoresheet.

It is also important to realize, that just because someone meets the statutory guidelines for a Youthful Offender sentence, the judge doesn’t have to impose this lesser penalty. Normally, the prosecutor on the case will object to the Youthful Offender designation, considering it a break that the offender doesn’t deserve.

What Can You Do?

Our experienced attorneys understand how the statutory scheme is applied to Youthful Offenders. We have extensive successful experience in presenting the necessary facts not only about the case but more importantly, presenting the positive accomplishments of our young clients. Whereby the sentencing judge has a more complete picture of who the offender is, and not just the “bad person” the prosecution verbally depicts in court.

Armed with this information and our experience, we are able to present compelling reasons for the sentencing judge to apply the Youthful Offender designation in order to fashion a sentence that doesn’t destroy a young adult’s future. Once we have fully discovered the facts of your case, we will then develop the defense that gives you the best chance of protecting your future.

Call Taracks & Associates today for a free consultation.

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