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What is the Youthful Offender Program?

A parent of a Connecticut juvenile is notified that their child has been charged with a crime. This can be a terrifying scenario for any parent. What does being criminally charged mean for their child? Will their young one end up going to prison, and will that child suffer a damaged reputation? In such a scenario, it is important to understand that Connecticut offers avenues for some juveniles to avoid worst case punishments and even avert having a criminal conviction on their records.

According to the Connecticut Office of Governmental Accountability website, Connecticut has a program in place called the Youthful Offender Program (YO). This program offers a way for individuals under the age of eighteen to receive much lighter or deferred punishment and avoid the type of prosecution they would receive if they were charged as adults. If someone is sixteen or seventeen years of age and is considered eligible for the program, a court may hand down any of a number of judgments, depending on the case. Some conditions, such as possessing a prior conviction of a felony on an adult docket, can disqualify a juvenile from entering the YO.

The fact that a juvenile has entered the YO does not mean that the individual is spared jail time. A court may still sentence the juvenile to a prison term, but it cannot be greater than four years nor can it exceed what the juvenile would receive if charged as an adult. However, a court may decree a sentence but then suspend it immediately, or at least suspend it after a set period of time. A judge may also decide not to imprison the juvenile but instead hand down a sentence requiring community service. 

Another benefit of Connecticut’s YO is that the court is barred from handing down large monetary fines and penalties. A court adjudicating a youth in YO can impose fines, but those amounts cannot exceed a thousand dollars. This helps make sure that the juvenile is not sunk into a deep financial hole due to damages from criminal charges.

Whatever the court’s final decision may be regarding a juvenile in the YO program, the sentence will not count as a conviction under Connecticut law. Since these sentences are not convictions, they do not count as part of a juvenile’s criminal record and will not incur the same kinds of problems for that person later in life that having a record of criminal convictions could bring.

This article is intended to educate readers on Connecticut’s Youthful Offender Program and is not to be taken as legal advice.

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