The Michigan Court of Appeals, in People of the State of Michigan v. Bartoy overturned both a trial court and a Circuit Court order refusing to grant a minor Holmes Youthful Trainee Act status on an MIP case. We have seen this across the state of Michigan where trial judges, who may be unfamiliar with this case, regularly deny minors the opportunity to have their cases set aside under the HYTA law.

The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is found at MCL 762.11 and gives youths ages 17 to 21 the opportunity to be placed on probation and have a dismissal if all terms are met. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that “it is well established the the HYTA is a remedial statute and should be construed liberally.” They went on to say that “the statute also evidences a legislative desire that persons in this age group not be stigmatized with criminal records for unreflective and immature acts.”

It is unquestionable that an MIP charge in Michigan is typically the result of unreflective and immature actions on the part of the minor. What is wrong is that there are so many judges statewide that will not even consider HYTA for an MIP case. It is available on any case, misdemeanor or felony, where an individual is between the ages of 17 and 21. It is fully within the discretion of the trial court and is NOT dependent upon the prosecuting official agreeing with the sentence.

The Michigan Court of Appeals in this case went so far as to suggest to the trial court that “on the rather limited record before us, there is nothing that strikes us as precluding defendant from being assigned youthful trainee status.” Part of the problem in the Bartoy case is that there was a policy in the trial court of not granting HYTA status. It is rare for trial courts to openly admit this on the record, but there are certainly courts that could use a refresher from the Michigan Court of Appeal on how to exercise discretion in HYTA cases.

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