If you are convicted of a felony committed before you were 21 years old, an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney may be able to keep you out of jail. The judge looks at a lot of information before your appearance at a sentencing hearing. In considering whether you go to prison for years or get probation, community control, or a suspended sentence, he or she looks at a presentence report for background, consults scoresheets, and listens to what your lawyer has to say.
The judge has a lot of discretion in deciding your fate, so it pays to have a persuasive lawyer. Your best chance at avoiding incarceration is to qualify for Youthful Offender Status. Judges are generally bound to sentence defendants within state guidelines, which often include jail or prison terms. But if your attorney can show the judge that a Downward Departure is justified in your case, you may not have to go to prison.
“Florida law grants state prosecutors the extraordinary power to bring adult charges against children as young as 14 – without any review by a judge or a grand jury,” according to a recent report. In addition, Florida transfers more juveniles to adult court than any other state. As a result, Florida has the highest number of children and adolescents in the criminal justice system.
Authorities created Youthful Offender Status as a sentencing mechanism to limit prison time or divert younger defendants from incarceration altogether. It’s meant to give juveniles and young adults a second chance if possible and is seen as a better solution than locking up young people with hardened criminals. Youthful Offender sentences make more sense, especially because nearly two-thirds of juveniles prosecuted as adults committed non-violent offenses.
The main benefit of Youthful Offender Status is sentencing limitation. It is still possible to be sentenced to prison and probation under Florida’s Youthful Offender law, but the sentence of either or both cannot be more than six years. The statute provides for Community Control as an alternative to prison or jail. It’s an “intensive supervision” program – basically house arrest. The judge also has the power to “withhold adjudication.” That means that if you complete a probation period, you would technically avoid a conviction. There will still be a record, but you can honestly answer “No” to the employment question about ever having been convicted of a crime.
A seasoned attorney who knows the law can negotiate with prosecutors and work to get the best possible outcome for you. Don’t take chances with your future. When the stakes are this high, talk to the Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Rivas Law Firm. Call 407-676-7353 or contact us online for a free consultation.