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Avoid Drug Crime Conviction with HYTA

When a juvenile is arrested for a drug crime in Michigan, there are special considerations to be made under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), codified in MCL Section 762.11.

As our Michigan HYTA drug crimes defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates can explain, HYTA applies to offenders between the ages of 17 and 23. Prosecuting attorney consent is required if the offense was committed on or after the defendant’s 21st birthday, but before they turn 24.

HYTA for drug crimes offers an advantage to Michigan youth who might otherwise face a permanent criminal record. It’s a recognition of the fact that the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate, as opposed to the adult criminal justice system, which is to penalize.

Nonetheless, parents and young people cannot presume their age will shield them from serious consequences or a long-term impact on their future. To preserve your rights and take full advantage of the legal protections afforded, juvenile offenders and their parents should seek the advice of a juvenile defense attorney experienced in HYTA cases.

Michigan is one of a handful of states that automatically charges 17-and-older offenders as adults. This often comes as a surprise because most other laws treat anyone under 18 as a minor. The good thing about HYTA is that it offers a chance to keep criminal offenses – including felonies – off your record. Although there are some exceptions, HYTA is available for most felonies and misdemeanors, and allows dismissal of those charges upon compliance with the terms set by the court.

It was the desire of the legislature, as noted in the 1981 Michigan appellate case of People v. Perkins, not to stigmatize younger people with criminal records for acts that were “unreflective” and “immature.”

A drug offender given HYTA status will not necessarily avoid jail or prison entirely (in fact, incarceration may be mandatory for certain offenses). However, it does allow youths the opportunity to build a better future.

Juvenile Drug Crimes in Michigan

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports the juvenile arrest rate for drug abuse violations (including sale/manufacturing and possession) by those ages 10 to 17 rose sharply throughout the 1990s but has steadily declined since 2000.

Still, youth under 24 have one of the highest rates of arrest for drug offenses comparative to other age groups.

In Michigan, the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice reports:

  • Juveniles (ages 10 to 16) account for roughly 5 percent of total arrests in Michigan (about 13,000 annually);
  • Narcotic law violations account for about 10.5 percent of all juvenile arrests in Michigan;
  • Black teens and males are overrepresented in Michigan juvenile drug arrest data.

Drug offenses are taken quite seriously in Michigan, and HYTA doesn’t change that. Still, there are several ways your drug defense attorney can help you fight back on these charges, possibly avoiding conviction or at least minimizing the impact to your freedom, finances and future.

HYTA for Michigan Drug Offenses

As noted in the 1996 Michigan Court of Appeals decision in People v. Bobek, the HYTA offers a way for youths charged with certain crimes to be excused from having a criminal record. In relevant part, the HYTA allows that if an individual pleads guilty to a criminal offense, the court of record with jurisdiction may – without entering judgment of conviction and with consent of the defendant – consider and assign the status of “youthful trainee.”

As noted in the 2009 appellate court decision in People v. Dipiazza, the assignment of this status does NOT equal a criminal conviction – unless the court chooses to revoke the defendant’s status.

There are some exceptions to HYTA, including:

  • Traffic offenses (including OUI, etc.);
  • Serious sex crimes;
  • A major controlled substance offense;
  • A felony for which the maximum penalty is life in prison.

This does not mean juveniles charged with such offenses have no options. It may be possible to plead the charge down, and there could be numerous other strong defenses, depending on the particulars of the case.

When it comes to juvenile drug offenses, there is often a good chance of HYTA assignment because the majority of drug arrests are for possession, MCL 333.7403, rather than manufacturing or sale.

The “major controlled substance offense” section of HYTA refers to:

  • Manufacturing, creating delivering or possessing with intent to manufacture, create or deliver any amount of cocaine or Schedule I or Schedule II drug (i.e., heroin, Oxycontin, etc.);
  • Possessing any amount of cocaine or Schedule I or Schedule II narcotic;
  • Conspiracy to commit either of the aforementioned drug crimes.

HYTA status may be granted for drug crimes involving other substances, including marijuana, Vicodin, ecstasy, methamphetamine and more.

How HYTA Works

To obtain HYTA, the defendant must enter a guilty plea on the agreed-upon charge. A judge will then order the HYTA and decide on the terms and length of probation.

The record will be sealed from public view while pending, though the court and law enforcement will still have access to it. You may still be incarcerated, though that’s generally unlikely in misdemeanor cases.

If HYTA probation is violated, the judge has authority to strip you of HYTA status. In some cases, it is mandated. In those cases, because there is already a guilty plea in place, the offender would then have a conviction on their permanent record.

However, if one successfully completes HYTA probation on a drug offense, the judge will dismiss the charge. No criminal drug conviction will be viewable by the public.

Later, when you fill out a job, housing or educational application, you may have to answer “yes” when asked if you have ever been arrested, but you can freely answer “no” when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime.

Drug Crime “7411” vs. HYTA

It is possible for drug offenders of any age to avoid a permanent criminal record with a provision sometimes referred to as “7411” – short for MCL 333.7411. It’s a kind of deferral, stipulating that in drug possession cases where a defendant has no prior drug convictions, one can avoid incurring a criminal record if he or she successfully completes probation. The terms of that probation are entirely up to the judge, but typically include random drug and alcohol testing, employment requirements and substance abuse counseling. Successful completion can result in a judge’s dismissal of the entire case.

HYTA is different.

To begin, it is available only to those younger than 24 (before a 2015 legislative change, it was only available to those under 21).

Secondly, while 7411 applies strictly to drug offenses, HYTA encompasses all different types of offenses.

In some cases, a defendant may have both HYTA and 7411 available as an option. Defense lawyers will often recommend defendants opt for the HYTA, as it can only be used until the person turns 21. That way, 7411 will still be an option in the event defendant is charged again later with another drug crime. It is possible a judge will not grant 7411 to a defendant who has already been granted HYTA, but that’s where the help of an experienced Michigan drug crime defense attorney can be critical.

If you are a juvenile arrested for drug crimes in Michigan, our best drug crime defense lawyers can help.

Contact our experience juvenile defense attorneys at Grable & Associates at 1-800-342-7896.

With drug crime defense attorneys statewide, Grabel & Associates defends people throughout Michigan charged with possession, intent to distribute, manufacturing, cultivation and illegal prescription drugs.

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