Many young people in South Carolina who are charged with a crime have a feeling that their life is over. They believe that they have ruined their future and that they will have no chance of getting a job and succeeding in life with a criminal record. A criminal conviction does not necessarily mean that your record is forever tarnished in South Carolina. For first-time offenders, age 17-25 at the time of conviction, there is an opportunity to serve your active or probationary sentence and then have the conviction expunged or removed from your permanent record. This is accomplished through the use of a law known as the “Judge William R. Byars Youthful Offender Act”, S.C. Code 24-19-5.
A youthful offender act sentence, or “YOA” sentence as it is commonly known, is not for everyone. It is most certainly advantageous for a young person who is convicted of a crime for the first time and who has a low risk of recidivism, or getting re-arrested, and who is greatly concerned about a spotless criminal record. A defendant convicted under a YOA sentence will either service an active sentence in a special facility for young people, with special services tailored to them such as GED and trade school classes, or they will be placed on YOA probation. The reason it is not for everyone is that, many times, defendants who are unsuccessful in completing their YOA sentence end up spending more time in “real (adult) prison” as a result of their inability to follow the YOA program directives.
For assistance in getting a YOA sentence, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the statutory requirements of this program, which offenses are allowed in, and how to negotiate with the prosecutor or persuade a judge to agree to this special program.
The benefit of this program cannot be overstated as it may allow a young person, with their whole life ahead of them and who makes one big mistake, to get a second shot at their dreams. Loignon Law Firm has helped many young clients navigate the complicated process of the youthful offender act. Give us a call today at (843)790-9388 to see if a YOA is right for you.