What Is New York Youthful Offender Status?
New York Youthful Offender status is a special provision in the criminal justice system that allows young people between the ages of 16-18 to avoid having a permanent criminal record. If you are convicted of certain crimes in New York between the ages of 16-18, the judge has the discretion to grant you Youthful Offender status instead of giving you a regular criminal conviction.
Youthful Offender status is meant to give young people a second chance so that a youthful mistake does not negatively impact their entire life. The records for a Youthful Offender adjudication are automatically sealed, meaning the criminal record is confidential and accessible only under very limited circumstances.
Who Is Eligible For Youthful Offender Status?
There are a few requirements you must meet to be eligible for Youthful Offender status in New York:
- You must be at least 16 years old but less than 19 years old at the time the crime was committed
- The crime you are charged with must be eligible for Youthful Offender treatment (more on this below)
- You must have no prior felony convictions
- You cannot have been previously granted Youthful Offender status
So if you meet all those criteria – you are under 19, never convicted of a felony before, never received Youthful Offender status before, and are charged with an eligible crime – then the judge has the option to grant you Youthful Offender status instead of convicting you.
What Crimes Are Eligible For Youthful Offender Status?
Most misdemeanors and felonies are eligible for Youthful Offender status. However, there are certain very serious felonies that are excluded:
- Armed felonies – being in possession of, being armed with, or causing serious physical injury by means of a deadly weapon
- Rape in the First Degree
- Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree
- Aggravated Sexual Abuse
For those serious felonies, the judge can still grant Youthful Offender status if they determine certain mitigating factors exist. For example, if your participation in the crime was relatively minor or there were circumstances that lessened your culpability.
So while it is harder to get Youthful Offender status for very serious felonies, it is still possible in certain cases if the judge believes it is appropriate.
What Is The Process For Getting Youthful Offender Status?
If you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial of an eligible offense, the judge will order a pre-sentence investigation report before sentencing you. This investigation looks at factors like your age and criminal history to confirm you are eligible for Youthful Offender treatment.
For misdemeanors, if you meet the eligibility requirements, you are automatically granted Youthful Offender status – the judge does not have discretion to deny it.
For felonies, after reviewing the pre-sentence report, the judge will decide at sentencing whether or not to grant you Youthful Offender status. They will consider factors like the seriousness of the crime, your role in the crime, your background, and whether granting Youthful Offender status would serve the interests of justice.
Judges have broad discretion over whether to grant Youthful Offender status on felonies. There is no automatic guarantee you will receive it, but your attorney can argue why you deserve it.
What Are The Benefits Of Youthful Offender Status?
The main benefit of Youthful Offender status is that it keeps your criminal record sealed and confidential. A Youthful Offender adjudication is NOT considered a criminal conviction under New York law.
This means you do not have to disclose the offense when applying to college, trade school, the military, or most jobs. You can honestly answer “no” if asked if you have been convicted of a crime. There are limited exceptions where you may have to disclose a Youthful Offender adjudication, but in most cases it can be kept confidential.
In addition, the maximum sentence you can receive if granted Youthful Offender status is 1-4 years in prison. The judge has discretion to give you probation instead of jail if appropriate.
Getting Youthful Offender status gives you a major second chance so one mistake as a teenager does not negatively impact your entire adult life.
Can A Youthful Offender Adjudication Be Sealed Or Expunged?
A Youthful Offender adjudication does not need to be sealed or expunged because the records are automatically kept confidential under New York law.
The case records are sealed immediately when the judge grants you Youthful Offender status. They can only be accessed under very limited circumstances, such as by law enforcement pursuant to a court order.
So you receive the benefits of a sealed, confidential record without having to go through a separate sealing process.
Can You Appeal If You Are Denied Youthful Offender Status?
Yes, you can appeal if the judge denies your request for Youthful Offender treatment on an eligible felony charge. Your attorney can file an appeal arguing the judge abused their discretion by refusing to grant you Youthful Offender status.
The appeals court will review the judge’s decision and determine if they appropriately considered all the relevant factors in denying Youthful Offender treatment. While reversals are uncommon, it is possible to get a denial of Youthful Offender status overturned on appeal in certain cases.
Can Youthful Offender Status Be Revoked Or Reversed?
In very limited circumstances, it is possible for a Youthful Offender adjudication to be revoked by the court. This can happen if you violate the conditions of your probation or commit a new crime shortly after being granted Youthful Offender status.
It is rare, but judges have the discretion to revoke Youthful Offender treatment if you fail to take advantage of the second chance it provides. If revoked, you would then have a permanent adult conviction on your record instead of the confidential Youthful Offender adjudication.
A Youthful Offender adjudication can also theoretically be reversed on appeal, just like any other conviction. But this would be a rare and difficult process. In most cases, once granted Youthful Offender status it will remain in place permanently, keeping your record sealed.
Can You Get Youthful Offender Status More Than Once?
No, you are only eligible to receive Youthful Offender status one time in New York. If you have previously been adjudicated a Youthful Offender, you would be disqualified from receiving it again on any subsequent criminal charges.
The one-time limitation makes it critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can strongly advocate for you to receive Youthful Offender treatment the first time you are eligible. If you do not get it on your first eligible case, you will be unable to get those benefits for any future arrests.
Is There An Age Limit For Youthful Offender Status?
Yes, you must be at least 16 years old but less than 19 years old at the time the crime was committed to be eligible for Youthful Offender status. The age range for eligibility is narrow.
If you were 15 or younger at the time of the crime, your case will be handled in family court as a juvenile delinquency matter. You would not be eligible for Youthful Offender treatment.
If you were 19 or older at the time of the crime, you would be prosecuted as an adult criminal defendant and also would not be able to receive Youthful Offender status.
The 16-18 age range is strictly enforced, so your age when arrested is a key factor in determining if you can pursue Youthful Offender treatment.
Does Youthful Offender Status Expire Or Go Away?
No, once granted Youthful Offender status it remains in place permanently. Your record will always remain sealed and confidential.
The benefits do not expire after a certain period of time. You do not ever have to “renew” or re-apply for Youthful Offender status. The confidentiality lasts forever, giving you permanent protection from having to disclose the offense.
This makes it critical to consult an attorney if you are eligible, because Youthful Offender status provides lifelong benefits if you can obtain it.
Can You Get Youthful Offender Status Reduced To A Lower Crime?
Yes, one advantage of Youthful Offender status is the judge has flexibility to treat your offense as a lower level misdemeanor rather than a felony. For example, they could adjudicate you a Youthful Offender on a burglary charge but designate that it will be considered a trespass for purposes of your confidential records.
So even if you are convicted of a felony, with Youthful Offender status the judge can reduce it to a misdemeanor or even a non-criminal violation. This keeps your sealed records from showing a felony conviction.
Does A Youthful Offender Adjudication Count As A Conviction?
No. A Youthful Offender adjudication does NOT count as a criminal conviction under New York state law. That is why the records are kept confidential and do not need to be disclosed.
However, while not considered a conviction under New York law, it may still count as a conviction for certain limited federal purposes. For example, a Youthful Offender adjudication still counts as a conviction if applying for a federal job or if facing federal immigration consequences.
The lack of conviction under state law provides major benefits, but you should still consult an attorney to understand any potential federal impacts.
Can You Own A Gun With A Youthful Offender Adjudication?
Maybe. The issue of firearm rights with a Youthful Offender adjudication is tricky. The confidential Youthful Offender records are not supposed to be accessible to licensing officers reviewing a gun permit application.
However, if the licensing officer somehow learns about the Youthful Offender adjudication, they may still consider it a prohibiting conviction that would disqualify you from getting a gun permit.
The safest approach is to consult with a criminal defense attorney about your individual case if you hope to own a gun after receiving Youthful Offender treatment. Certain attorneys specialize in gun rights restoration and can provide guidance.
Should You Disclose Youthful Offender Status When Asked About Convictions?
In most cases, no. The benefit of Youthful Offender treatment is it keeps your record sealed and confidential. You should not voluntarily disclose the offense in most situations.
However, the best approach is to avoid answering the question directly if possible. Try to focus the conversation on the positive – your skills, education, rehabilitation since the offense.
If directly asked, saying you have no “criminal convictions” is usually appropriate since a Youthful Offender adjudication is technically not a conviction. But be cautious, as some applications may ask you to disclose Youthful Offender adjudications specifically.
Consulting an attorney is advisable to understand when disclosure may be required so you can avoid accidentally misleading or misrepresenting anything.
New York Youthful Offender treatment is an invaluable opportunity for young people to avoid a permanent criminal record for youthful mistakes. The benefits are enormous – sealed confidential records, reduced sentencing exposure, and no requirement to disclose the offense in most cases.
But the complex eligibility rules mean working with an experienced criminal lawyer is critical to successfully secure Youthful Offender status. An attorney can strongly advocate to the judge about why you deserve Youthful Offender treatment so this one-time opportunity is not wasted.
If you or a loved one need help obtaining Youthful Offender adjudication, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer. Having an advocate by your side can make all the difference in avoiding a devastating adult conviction. Youthful Offender status provides a true second chance if you have the right legal team fighting for you.