New Age Increase for D.C.’s Youth Rehabilitation Act (Youth Act Sentence)

Updated on January 30th, 2020 at 04:48 pm

As of January 2019, The District’s Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA) increased the age range for youth adult offenders from 22 to under 25 years of age. This increase will allow more youth, first time offenders to cash in on the benefits of expungement that this amended act entails.

What is the YRA?

In 1985, the Youth Rehabilitation Act was created in the District of Columbia. The YRA aims to provide sentencing alternatives to first time young adult offenders. The YRA gives arrested youth offenders charged with a crime the ability to have their case sealed after successfully completing the requirements mandated. The newly amended act, which includes an age increase, also includes new conditions the offenders must meet in order to receive the sentence from the YRA. The new condition that must be met include no fewer than 90 hours of community service to a government agency in the District, a non-profit, or a community service organization. The offender must test negative on drugs screens. Both requirements must be met and completed for the offender to receive a sentence from the Youth Rehabilitation Act.

The benefit of the Youth Rehabilitation Act is priceless for offenders that have committed their first crime. The ability to seal a case almost immediately after the offender has been sentenced is extremely valuable for reintegration back into the community, and one of the key goals of the criminal justice. Many offenders convicted of a crime would be required by law to reveal to future employers, among others, their criminal record. Once the case is sealed, first time offenders would no longer have to indicate that they have criminal record because this information would no longer be available to the public per statute. Having the ability to seal cases for first time offenders give those the ability to break the never-ending cycle of reentering the criminal justice system.

Realities of the YRA

While the benefit of the YRA is unquestionable, not every case that is eligible under the YRA is granted. According to The District’s Youth Rehabilitation Act: An Analysis Briefing Document performed by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, of the 5,166 YRA-eligible cases open from 2010-2012 about 60 percent received the YRA sentence (McCann). The reason for this disparity is based on the approximate fourteen factors that are taken into consideration for each offender on a case-by-case basis. There are many factors that might affect an offender’s eligibility to receive the benefits from the Youth Rehabilitation Act ranging from reports of physical, mental, and psychiatric examinations to the victim’s impact statements. In addition to the many factors that might the ability for offenders to receive a sentence from the YRA, often times the offender is unable to complete the requirements given to them by the court. Of the limited number of people that are eligible for the YRA, only a portion of said people actually complete the conditions.

Overall, while there are many limits put forth to restrict the number of people that are eligible and, that actually complete the requirements, this is all to ensure that people who are given this second chance opportunity are serious. Our criminal justice system typically focuses primarily on key goals such as deterrence, retribution, and incapacitation for the victim and secondarily on retribution of the offender. Once a person commits a crime, often times they are stuck in a never-ending cycle of jail and crime because of the current laws that impact felons. The Youth Rehabilitation Act is the first step in moving to the correct direction in creating a criminal justice that works to rehabilitate offenders rather than incarcerate.

Contact An Experienced Defense Attorney

If you are under the age of 25 and charged with a criminal offense in the District of Columbia, it is vital you contact a DC criminal defense attorney that is familiar with all of your options to avoid a permanent conviction on your record.


McCann, Ellen P. THE DISTRICT’S YOUTH REHABILITATION ACT: An Analysis Briefing Document. Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the District of Columbia

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