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All That Glitters Is Not Gold, And Sometimes You’ve Got to Be Happy With the Bronze: The Good and Bad of Youthful Offender Act Sentences

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South Carolina’s Youthful Offender Act (YOA) provides an option for young people convicted in SC of certain nonviolent crimes. Under certain circumstances, the courts can show mercy for youthful mistakes. We previously looked who qualifies for Youthful Offender Act sentences. Now let’s look at just how the YOA works to cushion the criminal justice system’s penalties on young people.

Benefits of a YOA Sentence

  • Removal of the conviction from the public record, if you qualify. The chief benefit of a YOA sentence for certain convictions is that you can get your record expunged five years after you complete the sentence. You can learn about  expungement in more detail in the articles listed below, including which YOA convictions qualify for it.
  • Probation. You can be sentenced to probation, avoiding prison.
  • Limited prison exposure. If you get sentenced to prison, you must be released to at least conditional supervision within four years of the date of your conviction. You must be discharged unconditionally within six years of that date. Also, the Department of Corrections strives to keep youthful offenders at minimum security facilities, separated from other inmates, to protect youngsters from hardened criminals.

Risks of a YOA Sentence

Despite the benefits to a YOA sentence, there are also downsides which include:

  • Potential evaluation in custody before sentencing. The judge can order you held for an evaluation for up to 60 days, to generate a sentencing recommendation.
  • Indeterminate sentence. While any prison sentence is limited to six years, the judge cannot order any less: you just get sentenced to six years. It’s up to the Department of Corrections to determine when you should be released.
  • Burglary in the second degree requires a minimum three years in prison. We can’t figure out why the South Carolina Legislature wrote this provision into the law, but it’s the rule.
  • You only get one shot. There are no “second offense YOAs.” You can only do it once.

When Is YOA a “Good Enough” Result?

At Holland & Usry, it is always our goal to win your case. When we can’t, we work to minimize the consequences. If we have no defenses and you don’t qualify for a diversion program like pre-trial intervention or another arrangement that could get your record wiped clean, YOA becomes an option…if you qualify for that.

We take defending youngsters very seriously, because it’s often the young who can afford a stain on their records the least. You’re about to enter the working world or apply for college, and the last thing you need is to give someone a reason to turn you away. For too many young people, conviction of a serious crime that can’t be erased becomes a barrier to their brighter futures. Unlike some criminal defense law firms, we’re not willing to throw in the towel too soon.

If you or someone you know needs to consider a YOA sentence, it won’t cost you anything to discuss your case with us. We’ll assess your defenses to create a case we can win. If that’s not in the cards, we’ll develop a strategy to secure the best possible outcome with as little damage to you as possible. To get started, feel free to send us an email or start a live chat, right where you are.

 

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