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Youthful Offender Status Should Be Reserved For Youthful Crimes

Written by on July 2, 2019 | Opinion
Claudia Leatherwood
Claudia Leatherwood

Recently in Mobile, AL, a young man who drove down a residential street at 90 miles per hour where the speed limit was 30 mph was granted youthful offender status. After the publicity the case received, he was indicted with manslaughter charges. This week a judge in Mobile accepted his motion for Youthful Offender status. The most important thing this means is that the defendant’s criminal record will never be made public again. There is something inherently wrong with this status in situations where someone died due to the negligent behavior of the defendant.

The Alabama Legislature in next year’s legislative session should consider passing a law that restricts a judge’s ability to grant youthful offender status to defendants who are charged with a crime which resulted in the death of someone else, regardless if that crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. The reason for this is that generally speaking, juvenile offenders are far more likely to re-offend than people with convictions in adult court. This will allow future courts to consider criminal acts in people’s past when considering bail and sentencing for future convictions and District Attorneys when developing charge sheets for a defendant.

I am not blind to the fact that young people make rash and ill-informed decisions and mistakes that shouldn’t necessarily follow them for the rest of their lives. However, tell the family members of the people that die as a result of their negligent behavior that their offender is going to get a slap on the wrist and see what their reaction will be.  This idea won’t restrict a judge’s ability to grant youthful offender status in cases where the negligent behavior didn’t result in a death and won’t prevent a court’s ability to offer plea agreements or reduced sentences at sentencing either, it will just ensure that if a particular defendant re-offends, especially under similar circumstances as a the first offense, that the information will be able to be taken into consideration.

In the case referenced above, the defendant was speeding down a residential road at 90 mph with the speed limit of 30 mph, a road that ended where a middle School is located. Not considering the fact that his negligent behavior caused the death of a mother of two children, anybody thinking with any common sense would realize that that behavior in that neighborhood in that instance is unacceptable. If that young man was to cause the death of another person in the future due to negligent behavior behind the wheel of a vehicle, I want that judge and that district attorney to have the knowledge he has done it in the past when adjudicating that case, which because he was granted youthful offender status that will not happen.

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