When our firm represents young people accused of sex crimes, Smith Lehman is often asked if there is any way to resolve a case with no criminal record. Michigan does have a law called the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) that allows for young people who plead guilty to certain offenses to be free of a criminal record so long as they complete their sentence without violations. There are several things that you should know about this law, particularly when it comes to HYTA in combination with a sex offense.
1. The law requires that the person plead guilty.
In order to plead guilty, a criminal defendant will have to provide a factual basis upon which the court can rely to take the plea. It is impossible to plead no contest or not admit guilt when it comes to HYTA. The person pleading will have to agree that they did something in violation of the law.
2. HYTA status is only available with certain sex crimes.
Third-degree criminal sexual conduct and fourth degree criminal sexual conduct, for example, are permissible offenses for an HYTA plea. This is true so long as the person pleads under specific theories of the law. Typically, allegations that involve force or coercion are not eligible for HYTA status. However, when the facts of the case involve a person who was involved with someone under the age of consent, HYTA will be more likely to be an option. Sometimes it takes creativity to find accurate facts to support the plea resolution we hope to achieve.
3. If a person accepts a plea and is sentenced with HYTA status, the file at the court will be sealed from the public.
These files are not available online through programs like Oakland County’s Court Explorer or Macomb County’s Case Look-up system.
4. In order to be eligible for HYTA, a person must be between the ages of 17 and 20.
A person between the age of 21 and 24 can be eligible, so long as the prosecutor agrees. Younger defendants can be eligible for Holmes Youthful Trainee Act status when jurisdiction is transferred from the juvenile court to the adult court. There are completely different options and concerns if the case is charged and completed in juvenile court.
5. When a person is sentenced with HYTA status, the court has three options for incarceration.
The court can:
- Choose to order probation;
- Order the person serve up to one year in the county jail; or
- Order that the youthful offender must go to HYTA prison which can be for up to three years.
6. When a defendant is sentenced under HYTA, the prison sentencing guidelines do not matter in the case.
This is an important distinction because normally third degree criminal sexual conduct requires a prison sentence. Because the guidelines do not count, a youthful offender can still be eligible for probation even when sentencing guidelines would not appear to make probation a possibility.
7. There are various ways to secure HYTA status, depending on the case.
In some cases, we stipulate and agree to it with the prosecution in advance. In other cases, the Judge will consider it and allow the accused to withdraw their plea if the judge decides not to go along with it at sentencing. Sometimes, we have to file Motions and Petitions for the Judge to consider HYTA as an option and set our clients up in the best way we can.
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In order to see if HYTA can be an option in a case, it is important to set up a consultation with our office. It will be critical to look at several factors of the case to see if HYTA is allowed. Sex crimes are a particularly tricky type of case to secure a HYTA outcome. However, at Smith Lehman we have accomplished this for many, if not most, of our young clients who find themselves accused.