For many previously unsuccessful Youthful Offender applicants, their prospects for a fresh start improved on November 2, 2021. On that date, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation designed to allow an offender who had previously been denied YO status the opportunity to reapply to have their record sealed, provided that the defendant meets certain requirements (discussed further below). This law provides new hope for scores of individuals that were sentenced as adults for crimes that they committed when they were under 19.
If I was previously denied Youthful Offender status, what conditions must be met in order to be eligible to reapply for Youthful Offender status?
In order to reapply for Youthful Offender status, a person must (1) have been previously denied YO status by their sentencing judge, despite being eligible at the time of their initial sentencing; (2) have waited at least five years to reapply, running from the date of their sentencing or, if their sentence included incarceration, the date of their release; and (3) have not have been convicted of any additional crimes. Thus, if you were denied YO status and later were convicted of another crime, you will not be eligible to reapply for YO status under this new law.
If I plead guilty to a separate speeding ticket/disorderly conduct violation/trespass violation after being denied YO status does that disqualify me from reapplying for YO status?
A conviction for a non-criminal traffic violation like speeding, or some other violation-level offense like disorderly conduct or trespass should not disqualify you from reapplying for YO status, assuming you are otherwise qualified. The law provides that a person is only disqualified from reapplying if they have been convicted of an additional “crime,” which means either a misdemeanor or felony conviction.
I believe I am eligible to reapply for YO status. Is the judge required to grant my new application and give me YO status?
No. The judge will still have discretion to deny your new application.
When I reapply for YO status, what will the judge look at when considering my application?
When considering your new application, the law requires the judge to consider each of the following factors:
(i) whether relieving the individual from the onus of a criminal record would facilitate rehabilitation and successful reentry and reintegration into society;
(ii) the manner in which the crime was committed;
(iii) the role of the individual in the crime which resulted in the conviction;
(iv) the individual’s age at the time of the crime;
(v) the length of time since the crime was committed;
(vi) any mitigating circumstances at the time the crime was committed;
(vii) the individual’s criminal record;
(viii) the individual’s attitude toward society and respect for the law; and
(ix) evidence of rehabilitation and demonstration of living a productive life including, but not limited to participation in educational and vocational programs, employment history, alcohol and substance abuse treatment, and family and community involvement.
After considering these factors, the judge will approve or deny your renewed request for YO status. Thus, it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney that handles sealing and criminal matters who can assist you in making the most compelling case possible.
What will happen when I reapply for YO status?
Once you submit an application for YO status, the prosecuting District Attorney’s Office will be served with a copy of your application and will decide whether or not to oppose your request. If they choose to oppose your request, they will likely file papers with the court arguing why you should not be granted YO status. If they do not oppose your request, the court must still consider whether it is appropriate or not to grant YO status. The court can choose to hold a hearing or conduct other proceedings it feels are necessary to make the appropriate determination.
I was convicted of committing a crime when I was 19 years old, and thus was not eligible to apply for YO status at my sentencing. Does this law allow me to now apply to be deemed a Youthful Offender?
Unfortunately, no. The law only permits you to re-apply for YO status if you were eligible to be adjudicated as a YO at the time of your sentencing but were nevertheless denied.