Monday, June 21, 2010

The Youth DWI and Y.O. (Youthful Offender) Status

Often people in Ithaca City Court are confused by the jargon being spewed around the Courtroom. The defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judge love to use an assortment of acronyms and numbers. These abbreviations are not without deeper meaning. They often allow the process to occur more smoothly and quickly. Sometimes the Court has over a 100 cases on the docket between the hours of 9:30am and 12:30pm. Shortcuts prove helpful to successfully go through each and every case.

In many DWI cases we have the numbers 710.30. These are statements (either written and/or verbal) that the prosecutor attends to use against you. Hence, from your Miranda warnings, "anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law." A 710.30 Notice means that you (and your attorney) have received a document showing these statements.

When a Court discusses a Y.O. that means a Youthful Offender (the defendant/the accused) is 19 years of age or under. Youthful Offender Status (Adjudication) under New York State law, is for people who are 16 years old but less than 19 years old who are charged with a crime (misdemeanor or felony). They may be eligible for a "youthful offender adjudication." These are also called a Juvenile Offenders.

This is covered under Section 720.20 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law which sets forth the circumstances under which a court may make a finding that a person is classified as a youthful offender. For misdemeanor convictions, such as first time DWIs, CPL § 720.20 states:

Upon conviction of an eligible youth, the court must order a P.S.I. (pre-sentence

Investigation) of the defendant. After receipt of a written report of the investigation

(interview) and

at the time of pronouncing sentence the court must determine whether or not the eligible

youth is a Y.O., youthful offender. Such determination shall be in accordance with the

following criteria:

Where the conviction is had in a local criminal court and the eligible youth had not prior

to commencement of trial or entry of a plea of guilty been convicted of a crime or found a

youthful offender, the court MUST find he is a youthful offender.

So in summary, no prior criminal convictions and no prior status as a Y.O.

CPL § 720.20(d) provides that when an individual is found to be a youthful offender, " the court must direct that the conviction be deemed vacated and replaced by a youthful offender finding; and the court must sentence the defendant pursuant to section 60.02 of the penal law."

It also means that the Court orders the records to be sealed to the public. Please note that public school officials will be notified (only the notice of adjudication). This notice is kept apart from all other school records and documents. Y.O. status also means that there is no conviction of a crime or any other offense.

Section 60.02(1) of the Penal Law limits the maximum sentence that may be imposed upon an individual adjudicated a youthful offender who otherwise would have been convicted of a misdemeanor to "a definite or intermittent sentence of imprisonment with a term of no more than six months…”

A weird benefit of being a YO for a DWI is that it is more beneficial to plead guilty to the criminal misdemeanor VTL 1192 (2) or (3) than to have a lower traffic violation of the DWAI VTL 1192 (1). This is true for a number of reasons:

1. The loss of license will be the same under 21 years of age, one year.

2. The government (the prosecutor) cannot use the DWI against you for future enhancements of DWI. So no use of the DWI as a predicate offense.

3. Sentencing guidelines for the DWI will be restricted by the YO status.

The only negative in my opinion for a YO DWI is the increased fines for a DWI than for a DWAI.

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