Under New York’s Youthful Offender Law, Criminal Procedure Law 720, a youth aged 16 through 18 who is charged with a crime is tried in adult court but may be eligible for special consideration.
Such special considerations, once granted youthful offender status, could include being spared a criminal record and receiving lesser sentence that would otherwise have applied after a conviction on the charges.
The underlying purpose of the Youthful Offender status is to avoid stigmatizing youth between the ages of 16 and 19 with criminal records triggered y hasty or thoughtless acts which, although crimes, may not have been the serious deeds of hardened criminals.
To be eligible for youthful offender status ny, the age of the defendant must be 16 through 18 without any previous felony vocation or YO adjudication.
However, an individual who does have a previous record may nevertheless be made an eligible youth a the discretion of the judge, under CPL 720.(1)(a). There are also certain crimes which may render the individual not eligible.
When the defendant is accused of a felony, such as fourth degree grand larceny, under the Youthful Offender law, the youthful offender status is discretionary. This simply means the judge has the discretion to make these decisions upon proper motion by the criminal defense attorney or where the District Attorney and counsel for the defendant agree the situation fits the criteria of a youthful offender exception.
Although the criminal defense lawyer and the district attorney may agree to youthful offender status, it is not required. In situations where the defendant has been tried, defense counsel may raise the issue of youthful offender status at sentencing.
At sentencing, the point at which a guilty verdict would be officially turned into a judgment of conviction, the court decides whether an eligible youth will actually be given Youthful Offender status. If YO status is granted, the criminal conviction is set aside.