Oklahoma's Youthful Offender Law

Friday, September 22nd 2006, 10:35 am
By: News On 6

Much has been said this week about a 15 year old girl charged as a youthful offender after a fatal car crash versus a teenage charged as a juvenile after another deadly crash. The truth is, not many people know how the youthful offender law works.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright looks at the law.

The idea behind the youthful offender act was to get tougher on teenagers who commit violent crimes than we used to, when they were only handled in the juvenile system. However, it was also to give them a chance to be rehabilitated, instead of sending them to adult prison, where they'd likely just turn into hard-core criminals.

This was supposed to be a middle ground. The 15-year old girl accused of speeding down a neighborhood street, losing control and killing an 11-year old boy, was charged as a youthful offender.

What does that mean? It's tougher than being treated as a juvenile, but still gives teenagers a chance to turn their life around.

A 16-year-old treated as a juvenile, might get probation or juvenile detention, but has to be released when they're 18 and their record will be sealed.

A 16 year old youthful offender, might go to jail, although they're kept separate from the grownups. The maximum sentence they can get is 10 years. If they do all the right things, they'll be released when they're 21 and their record can be sealed. If they keep getting in trouble, they can be sent to adult prison to serve the rest of that 10 year sentence.

A 16-year-old treated like an adult, goes to adult prison can be there for life and it will always be on their record.

The youthful offender program is an opportunity for kids to get back on track so their whole life isn't ruined, but not everyone takes advantage of that opportunity.

Mitchell Roberts was treated as a youthful offender after being involved with a murder. He served a few years and was released, but then, broke into a Tulsa school, so they sent him to the adult system.