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HYTA: A Second Chance for Youthful Offenders

Effective August 18, 2015, young people between the ages of 21 and 24 who have committed a criminal offense will be eligible to claim youthful trainee status and, upon successful completion of a probationary term, obtain a clean criminal record.

The Holmes Youth Trainee Act, or HYTA, gives a judge the discretion to allow a youth offender the opportunity to earn a clean criminal record. HYTA was originally limited to offenders through the ages of 17 and 20; however, Governor Rick Synder recently signed into law a new bill that expands the eligible age to include those aged 21 to 24. These older offenders must also earn the prosecuting attorney's recommendation of youthful trainee status and can be subjected to electric monitoring during their probation period.

The new legislation coincides with recent research that suggests that the frontal lobe of the brain--the part that controls impulse-control and decision-making--does not fully develop until a person's mid- to late-twenties. This research helps to explain why younger people tend to make rash decisions and can be easily influenced by peers and addictive substances.

HYTA is not available for the following offenses: a felony carrying a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, a major controlled substance offense, a traffic offense, and most criminal sexual conduct crimes.

As First District Judge Jack Vitale stated, the expansion of HTYA "provides the opportunity for reform and the keeping of a viable person in the work force and society." HYTA avoids crippling youthful offenders with a criminal conviction that is likely to limit employment, housing, and academic options. With the expansion of HYTA to a larger age group, more youth offenders are eligible to take advantage of this opportunity for a fresh start.

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