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Youthful Offender Statute

In 1978 Florida passed the “Florida Youthful Offender Act.” The legislation was designed to give certain young people the chance to be reformed and returned to the community. The law was intended to give youthful offenders other opportunities, besides being placed in an adult prison, through enhanced, vocational, educational, counseling, or public service opportunities. If you are between the ages of 18 and 21 and have committed a felony in Florida, you may qualify for disposition of your case as a youthful offender and should contact an experienced attorney.

Lawyer for Youthful Offender Cases in West Palm Beach, FL

People arrested for felonies who are between 18 and 21 years of age have options for alternative sentencing instead of adult prisons in certain circumstances. If you are one of these people, Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can help you try to escape a harsh penalty in Royal Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Greenacres, Lake Worth, and many other surrounding areas of Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County, and Broward County.

Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are experienced criminal defense attorneys in West Palm Beach who can help you take advantage of the laws of Florida that are designed to help people like you. You can have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call (561) 557-8686 to set up a free, confidential consultation.


Palm Beach County Youthful Offender Statute Information Center


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Florida Youthful Offender Statute

There are certain conditions that allow a person to qualify as a youthful offender. The conditions for youthful offender status are a person:

  • At least 18 years of age but younger than 21;
  • Found guilty, pleads guilty, or accepts conviction;
  • Has not previously been classified as a youthful offender;
  • And has not committed a capital or life felony.

In addition, the Florida Department of Corrections is required to continuously screen all institutions, facilities, and programs for inmates who are under 25 that could qualify for youthful offender status. A prisoner under the age of 25 can qualify if they:

  • Have met the standard youthful offender qualifications, except for the age limit.
  • Were ineligible for youthful offender status because they were over 21 at the time of sentencing and the total sentence does not exceed 10 years.

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Disposition of Youthful Offenders

For people classified as youthful offenders, the law allows for alternative sentencing as opposed to standard prison sentences. The law allows for the four following alternative penalties for youthful offenders:

  • Incarceration for no more than 364 days in a county facility,
  • Department probation and restitution center, or community residential center as a condition of community supervision;
  • Community supervision; incarceration; or
  • A split sentence of incarceration and community supervision.

The law requires that separate institutions and programs be established for youthful offenders. These facilities are specifically designed for youthful offenders. Every person that enters the youthful offender program has certain obligations required of them. First, there is a reception and orientation for every youthful offender. This orientation includes an evaluation, needs assessment, and classification. The youthful offender will be evaluated to see if they need; academic or vocational programs; career and job training; life and socialization skills training, including anger and aggression control; prerelease orientation and planning; and transition services. If an offender has not earned a high school diploma they must be enrolled in an adult education program.

However, there are scenarios where youthful offenders can be moved to adult facilities. These scenarios are limited to the following:

  • Conviction of a new felony under Florida law;
  • Commission of serious violations of department rules to the point that the youthful offender becomes a management or disciplinary problem and his or her presence would be detrimental to the interests of other youthful offenders and to the program;
  • Need for medical treatment or other specialized treatment not available at the youthful offender facility; and
  • Transfer outside of the state correctional system to receive services not provided by the department.

Basic Training

Youthful offenders may also be placed in a basic training program for no less than 120 days if the Department of Corrections determines that a youthful offender in a short “shock” incarceration would receive the same rehabilitative effect as a lengthy incarceration. The basic training program includes marching drills, calisthenics, a rigid dress code, manual labor assignments, physical training with obstacle courses, training in decision making and personal development, high school equivalency diploma and adult basic education courses, and drug counseling and other rehabilitation programs.

The Department of Corrections will then submit a report 30 days before the youthful offender is scheduled to complete the program. If the offender’s performance has been assessed to be satisfactory, the court shall issue an order modifying the sentence and place the offender on probation subject to the completion of the basic training program. This probation may include a community residential program.


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Youthful Offender Statute in Palm Beach County Resources

Florida Youthful Offender Statute – Viewing the link will take you to the Florida Statutes section of youthful offenders. The law includes a statement of legislative intent to justify the program. The statute also includes prescriptions for what youthful offender facilities must provide.

Committee of Criminal Justice Report on the Youthful Offender Program – The Florida Senate produced a report regarding the youthful offender program. The report includes a very good overview of how the program works as well as statistics and demographics about people entered into the program. There are also statistics about recidivism.


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Find a Youthful Offender Attorney in Palm Beach County

If you are a young person that has been arrested for a felony in Palm Beach County you will want to contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. as soon as possible.

Our West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers represent individuals in communities throughout Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County, and Broward County, including Wellington, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Jupiter, Boca Raton, and several others. Call (561) 557-8686 or submit an online contact form to have our attorneys review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free initial consultation.


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