Michigan Senate Bill 1049: Changes to the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act

As part of criminal law reform in 2020 and 2021, Michigan passed Senate Bill 1049. This bill substantially modified the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act to include more people who can be considered for youthful trainee status. SB 1049 changed the law to provide that a person who commits an offense while between the ages of 18 and 25 (“on or after the individual’s eighteenth birthday but before his or her twenty-sixth birthday”) may be eligible to be designated a youthful trainee. Previously, only those between 18 and 23 were eligible.

A youthful trainee is treated differently from other offenders. Such a person pleads guilty to a violation of law but instead of entering a judgment of conviction, the court designates the person as a youthful trainee. The court assigns a period of probation, and, if the youthful trainee satisfactorily completes that probation, the court will dismiss the charges. No criminal conviction is entered on the youthful offender’s record. The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act gives a second chance to young offenders by clearing their criminal records, which otherwise would follow them the rest of their lives, barring expungement.

SB 1049 requires the court to have the consent of the offender to assign him or her the status of a youthful trainee as well as the consent of the prosecutor if the person committed the offense while between the ages of 21 and 25.

Generally, youthful trainee status is not available to a person charged with

  • a felony for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life,
  • a major controlled substance offense,
  • a traffic offense (such as DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, etc.),
  • criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, third, or fourth degree; assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct in the second degree; assault (or attempt or conspiracy to assault) with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct involving penetration; or attempt or conspiracy to commit criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, third, or fourth degree.

If a person is charged with one of the above offenses but pleads guilty to another (lesser) offense that may entitle him or her to youthful trainee status, the prosecutor must consult with the victim of the crime regarding whether the person should be given such a status.

SB 1049 also states that a court may not grant youthful trainee status to someone who was previously convicted of or adjudicated for a listed offense that required the offender to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act. A person currently charged with such a listed offense is ineligible for youthful trainee status unless the person demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is not likely to commit such an offense again. In such a case, if the court wants to designate the person as a youthful trainee, the prosecutor must consult the victim before youthful trainee status may be assigned.

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