Youthful Offender

In 1978, Florida implemented the “Youthful Offender Act,” which was designed to give qualified juvenile delinquents a chance to be reformed and assimilated back into the community. The purpose of this legislation was to stop the vicious cycle of criminal behavior, so the minor doesn’t end up becoming an adult criminal. The legislation gives youthful offenders options other than detention to rehabilitate such as counseling and public service opportunities.

Youthful offenders face much lighter penalties than if they faced traditional court. It also gives an opportunity for defendants to reflect on their actions and plan for a brighter future. If you think you could qualify as a youthful offender, then it’s recommended you secure legal representation as soon as possible.

Defense Attorney for Youthful Offenders in Ft. Lauderdale, FL

People arrested with felonies between the ages of 18 and 21 could have alternative sentencing instead of adult prison based on certain circumstances. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime and could be labeled as a youthful offender, then it’s time you contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney.

An excellent option is to call Meltzer & Bell. The defense lawyers at Meltzer & Bell have what it takes to represent you in a court of law. We can advise you on how to obtain youthful offender status and help you obtain reduced sentencing for your crime. Call us now at (754) 755-8554 to learn more details. We practice throughout the greater Fort Lauderdale area including Coral Springs, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines and Miramar.

Overview of Youthful Offender Status in Florida


Florida’s Youthful Offender Statute

According to Florida Statute Sec. 958.04, certain people could obtain a lesser sentence if they qualify as a youthful offender. Youthful offenders are young adults who have committed felonies and can receive a sentencing that focuses more on rehabilitation rather than punishment. To be a youthful offender, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age, but younger than 21;
  • Found guilty, plead guilty, or accepts conviction;
  • Hasn’t been previously classified as a youthful offender; and
  • Didn’t commit a capital or life felony

Even if you are over the age of 21 it doesn’t mean you can’t qualify as a youthful offender. The Florida Department of Corrections is required to continuously screen facilities, programs and institutions for inmates who are under 25 to see if they can obtain youthful offender status. You can be eligible to be a youthful offender under the age of 25 if you:

  • Met the youthful offender standards except for the age limit; and
  • Are ineligible for youthful offender status because you were over the age of 21 at the time of sentencing and the total sentence doesn’t exceed 10 years

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Sentencing Conditions for Youthful Offenders in Florida

Youthful offenders receive alternative sentencing because of their age and ability to be rehabilitated. Florida law allows four of the following penalties for youthful offenders instead of being sentenced to jail or prison. These include:

  • A split sentence between incarceration and community supervision;
  • Incarceration for no more than 364 days at a county facility;
  • Probation and restitution or a required stay at the community residential center; or
  • Community supervision

In addition, the Youthful Offender statute requires Florida counties to create programs for established youthful offenders. These programs have conditions that must be completed if the youthful offender wants their sentence to be reduced or dismissed. They must first undergo an orientation, which will be a thorough assessment of what needs to be rehabilitated with the offender.

The evaluation will determine if the youthful offender needs skills such as career and job training, life and socialization skills, anger control, drug rehabilitation and other transition services. Once the examination is over the offender can enter the program and complete the conditions that are outlined by the evaluation.

In some cases, youthful offenders are placed in a basic training program rather than incarceration. The program is no less than 120 days and is designed by the Department of Corrections. The purpose of basic training is to give the youthful offender a short “shock” incarceration they would receive if they were detained for a long period of time.

Basic training involves various requirements including rigid dress codes, physical training with obstacle courses, drills, calisthenics, manual labor assignments, high school and adult education courses, drug counseling, and decision making and personal development.

The Department of Corrections will submit a report 30 days before the program is about to end. The report will detail if the youthful offender’s performance has been satisfactory during basic training. If Department believes they’re successful, then the court will modify the sentence and place the offender on probation once basic training is over.


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Exceptions to the Youthful Offender Statute

Unfortunately, not everyone can become a youthful offender in Florida. If you meet any of the following criteria below, the courts may bar your request for youthful offender status.

  • Convicted of a new felony in Florida;
  • Violated department rules to the point the youthful offender becomes a management or disciplinary problem and their presence is detrimental to the interests of the other participants in the program;
  • They require medical treatment or other specialized treatment the facility cannot provide; or
  • They transfer outside the state correctional system to receive services not provided by the Department of Corrections

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Additional Resources

Youthful Offender Statute in Florida – Visit the official website for Online Sunshine, a collection of state and legislation in Florida. Access the site to learn more about youthful offender, program requirements and Florida’s legislative intent with the program.

Committee of Criminal Justice Report on the Youthful Offender Program – Visit a report created by the Florida Senate which details how youthful offender programs are operating in Florida. Access the site to read information, statistics and demographics about people who have entered the program.


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Youthful Offender Attorney in Broward County, Florida

If you or someone you know has been arrested, it’s time to contact an experienced defense lawyer. You could qualify to be a youthful offender and even have your sentence reduced. To learn more, call the offices of Meltzer & Bell. Our practiced attorneys can guide you on how to achieve youthful offender status and get the best possible result for your case.

Call us now at (754) 755-8554 and set up your first consultation free. We provide services for clients throughout the Broward County area including Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Miramar, Pembroke Pines and Hollywood.


This article was last updated on September 4, 2019. 

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