New York Appellate Lawyer

48 Wall Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10005

Federal Criminal Appeals Throughout The United States and
New York State Criminal Appeals.

Located at 48 Wall Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY! 1-800-APPEALS (277-3257)

Trial Courts Must Consider Youthful Offender Status At Sentencing


best appeal convictions  u.s supreme court says youthful offender status must be considered at sentencing

People v. Rudolph

The Court Of Appeals

2013 NY Slip Op 04840 21 NY 3d 497

Decided on: July 27, 2013

Criminal Section 720.20 Requires Consideration Of YO Status At Sentencing.

Summary: Defendant was charged with felony drug possession when he was 17 years old. He pleaded guilty to one count criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, and waived his right to appeal. At Defendant’s plea-bargaining, the Prosecutor said that he cannot extend YO as part of this offer, and that it would eliminate YO as part of the plea bargain because of the seriousness of the crime. Neither Defendant nor the District Court commented on these remarks. Defendant was sentenced to five years and two years of post release supervision.

On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in failing to address the question of youthful offender treatment at sentencing. The Appellate Division affirmed, saying that Defendant waived his right to be considered for youthful offender treatment by failing to make a request for such consideration. The Appellate Division granted leave to appeal.

The Court of Appeals held that, where a Defendant makes no assertion at the time of sentence he is nevertheless entitled to an adjudication of his youthful offender status.

The Court of Appeals held, there must be a youthful offender determination in every case where the Defendant is eligible, even where Defendant fails to request it, or agrees to forgo it as part of a plea bargain. The Court of Appeals reversed and remitted the case.

See Also: Appellate Review Of A Criminal Sentence

Issue: Whether the trial court erred when it did not decide that Defendant was eligible to be treated as a youthful offender upon conviction even though he failed to request youthful offender status at plea or sentence.

Holding: The Court of Appeals held that even where Defendant has failed to ask to be treated as a youthful offender, or has purported to waive his or her right to make such a request, the sentencing court must determine whether he or she is to be so treated. Under CPL 720.10 (1) and (2) a Defendant is eligible for youthful offender status if he or she was younger than 19 at the time of the crime, unless the crime is one of several serious felonies excluded by the statue, or unless Defendant has a prior felony conviction or has been adjudicated a youthful offender in a previous case. If youthful offender status is granted, the conviction is ‘deemed vacated and replaced by youthful offender finding.’

CPL 720.20(1): Upon conviction of an eligible youth, the court must order a pre–sentence investigation of the Defendant. After receipt of a written report of the investigation and at the time of the pronouncing sentence the court must determine whether or not the eligible youth is a youthful offender

Facts: Defendant was charged with felony drug possession when he was 17 years old. He pleaded guilty to one count criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, and waived his right to appeal. At the time of the plea, the Prosecutor said that he cannot extend YO as part of this offer, and that it could eliminate YO as part of the plea bargain because of the seriousness of the crime Neither Defendant nor the court commented on these remarks. Defendant was sentenced to five years and two years of post release supervision. On appeal, Defendant argues that the District Court erred in failing to address the question of youthful offender treatment at sentencing. The Appellate Division affirmed, saying that Defendant waived his right to be considered for youthful offender treatment by failing to make a request for such consideration. A judge of this Court granted leave to appeal.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals concluded that in People v. McGowen 42 NY 905 1977 interpreted the youthful offender statue incorrectly. The Court of Appeals overruled McGowen and held that where a Defendant is eligible to be treated as a youthful offender, the sentencing court must determine whether he or she is to be treated.

The Court Of Appeals held that under CPL 720.20(1) the legislatures use of the word “must” shows that there must be a youthful offender determination in every case where the Defendant is eligible, even where a Defendant fails to request it, or agreed to forgo it as part of a plea bargain.  To disable a sentencing court from making that decision is effectively to hold that the Defendant may not have the opportunity for a fresh start, without a criminal record, even if the Judge would conclude that the opportunity is likely to turn the young offender into a law-abiding, productive member of society.

The judgment of a District Court as to which young people have a real likelihood of turning their lives around is just too valuable, both to the offender and the community. Where the court’s ruling is a foregone conclusion, no purpose is served by a plea bargain that takes the decision out of the court’s hands.

     The Court of Appeals held that Under CPL 720.10 (1) and (2) a Defendant is eligible for youthful offender status if he or she was younger than 19 at the time of the crime, unless the crime is one of several serious felonies excluded by the statue, or unless Defendant has a prior felony conviction or has been adjudicated a youthful offender in a previous case. If youthful offender status is granted, the conviction is ‘deemed vacated and replaced by youthful offender finding.’

Accordingly the Appellate Division should be reversed and the case remitted to County Court for a determination of whether Defendant is a youthful offender.