In Michigan, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, commonly known as HYTA, is covered by statute, MCL 762.11. The essence of HYTA is that it allows for dismissal of eligible criminal offenses committed by youthful offenders. This statute applies only to offenders that are age 17 to 20 years old. HYTA is not available for juvenile offenders; those under age 17. In Michigan, a person is considered an adult for their crimes at age 17 and beyond. The dismissal of a criminal offense pursuant to HYTA is tantamount to an expungement. The benefit of getting HYTA means that the offender avoids the stigma and label of a criminal conviction. Subject to some exceptions, HYTA is available for most felonies and misdemeanors. A person applying for a job or filling out an employment application would be able to exclude an offense dismissed pursuant to compliance with HYTA.
Key aspects of a HYTA case: Conviction is not entered and records are sealed!
A person who seeks HYTA is required to formally plead guilty to the offense or offenses which are being considered for a HYTA plea. However, once the court accepts someone on HYTA status, the court does not enter a judgment of conviction and the court and Michigan State Police records become closed to the public view. The records remain sealed unless the person violates his or her HYTA status.
A person who is awarded HYTA status may be incarcerated. This is usually not the case unless there are compelling or aggravating circumstances. HYTA usually entails a term of probation with whatever conditions that the court deems appropriate for the youthful offender. If the offender violates any of the terms of probation, the guilty plea may be abstracted as a conviction. Should this occur, the conviction becomes a public record and the offender faces punishment and possible incarceration up to the maximum period of time allowed for the particular offense. However, if the person complies with the terms of probation, the case is dismissed at the end of probation and the record remains sealed. A sealed record means that it is not accessible to public access or by any member of the public who makes inquiry at the court or to a law enforcement agency.
How does someone get HYTA status?
HYTA status is not guaranteed and may be accepted or rejected in the judge's discretion. HYTA is obtained by an attorney negotiating this favorable disposition with the prosecutor and petitioning the court to accept the same. Since HYTA may be rejected by the court, it is vital that an attorney be retained in order to gain the best advantage in subsequent criminal proceedings.
HYTA status may also mean the imposition of probation, random testing for alcohol and drugs, counseling and payment of restitution. Restitution may be ordered in cases involving damage to property (home invasion, malicious destruction of property) or economic crimes (larceny).
HYTA is not available for some crimes and traffic offenses
HYTA is available for most criminal offenses including felonies and misdemeanors. However, the HYTA statute lists various offenses which are not eligible for HYTA status as follows:
- Traffic offenses, including Operating While Intoxicated
- An offense which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison
- Major controlled substance offenses
- Most criminal sexual conduct crimes
Creative legal solutions to get HYTA for ineligible crimes and offenders
Ineligible offenses: Sometimes, we are called upon to defend a client that is charged with an offense that is not eligible for HYTA. In such a case, we may attempt to seek a plea bargain to have the prohibited HYTA offense amended to an offense which is compatible with a HYTA disposition.
Offenders over age 20: When an offender is over age 20, HYTA is not applicable. In rare situations, our attorneys have been able to have the occurrence date of the crime amended to an earlier date when the offender's age would be under age 21.
- There is no limit on the number of cases which may be placed on HYTA status.
- An offender under age 17 or over age 20 is not eligible for HYTA.
- HYTA is not guaranteed and may be rejected by the judge.
- HYTA is not available for traffic violations or drunk driving.
- HYTA may include jail, probation, counseling and restitution to any victims.
Other Michigan provisions which are similar to HYTA
There are other criminal cases which can be resolved by laws which are similar to HYTA. They are as follows:
- Domestic violence cases may be dismissed pursuant to MCL 769.4a.
- Drug possession and use crimes may be dismissed pursuant to MCL 333.7411.
The above provisions may only be utilized once in a person's lifetime. On the other hand, HYTA can be applied on an unlimited basis provided the offense and the offender are eligible and the judge accepts HYTA as part of the disposition. However, the likliehood of getting HYTA when someone has a prior record is remote.
In theory, with the right lawyer, a person can have several offenses dismissed in his or her lifetime by knowing how to petition the court for application of these alternative sentencing provisions of law.