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If you are under 21, a Judge has discretion in your drug case sentencing.

Youth Has Its Privileges: Florida’s Youthful Offender Statute

If you are under the age of 21 at the time of your sentencing, Florida Statute 958.04 [Judicial disposition of youthful offenders] may apply to you. Even if you warrant mandatory prison time in the State of Florida, this statute gives a judge the discretion to waive that mandatory prison sentence. The “Youthful Offender” provision is one of the only statutes that allow a judge the discretion to preserve a young person’s future.

For example, if someone is 20 years old at the time of their sentencing and is facing a mandatory minimum of 15 years for trafficking in hydrocodone, the court can sentence the person as a youthful offender in order to escape the mandatory prison sentence. The Florida Legislature mandates that this particular statute can only be used one time.

Typically, the court handles a youthful offender by placing them on probation or in a community control program, for a period of up to six years. The period of supervision may not exceed the maximum sentence for the offense for which the youthful offender was found guilty.

Under the youthful offender statute, the judge can even withhold a formal finding of guilt. However, it is important to note that an individual who is found to substantially violate their probation could face the maximum amount of prison time for the underlying charge. For example, in the scenario mentioned above involving the trafficking in hydrocodone, a substantial violation could result in the “youthful offender” being sentenced to a term of imprisonment of up to 30 years.

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