South Carolina Youthful Offender Act

Certain crimes in South Carolina may be eligible for a sentence under the Youthful Offender Act under S.C. Code 24-19-10.

Youthful Offenders are treated differently from other Defendants as they must be under the age of 25 and the program is aimed at rehabilitation and guidance for youths charged with certain crimes. Under the Youthful Offender Act, someone can serve a suspended sentence or be on probation, or some prison time may be involved. However, if imprisonment is involved, youthful offenders are housed in a separate area of the South Carolina Department of Corrections than other convicted persons and are exposed to some treatment options involving preventative guidance and some vocational training and classes to help the person not to re-offend or commit additional crimes. A Youthful Offender may have their record expunged after five years if they receive no other convictions.

In order to be eligible for sentencing under the Youthful Offender Act or YOA:

  • You must be under the age of 25 at the time of a conviction.
  • You cannot be pleading to a violent offense.
  • The crime you are pleading to can only carry 15 years or less.

There are 3 ways a YOA sentence can be served:

  1. Suspended YOA:  This is when a judge or solicitor agrees to allow the person to be on a form of probation with a suspended jail sentence hanging over his or her head if they fail to maintain the requirements of the YOA probation. Offenders serving a probationary sentence work with a specialized parole agent who works with the offender to reduce the likelihood getting into more trouble.
  1. SHOCK incarceration sentence: A judge may determine to sentence a youthful offender to a 60 day period of incarceration for observation and supervision before he or she is released on probation. During this period, young offenders are given a chance to rehabilitate themselves. The Department of Corrections provides academic classes and vocational training and those youths who have not graduated from high school are aided in GED preparation. It also involves physical exercise and counseling. Upon graduation from the SHOCK program, offenders are placed on probation.
  1. Active YOA sentence:  In this case, a youthful offender would be sentenced by a judge to serve a period of incarceration not to exceed 6 years.


  1. Youthful offenders charged with Burglary 2nd violent can be eligible to serve a YOA sentence  even though it is classified as a “violent” crime. However, persons convicted for Burglary 2nd under the YOA statute must serve 3 years in the department of corrections.
  1. A person can only serve a youthful offender sentence ONCE in their lifetime. So, if you have already served a YOA sentence, you cannot do it again.
  1. A plea offer involving a sentence under the Youthful Offender Act is not always offered and understanding the Youthful Offender Act can be confusing. If you or a loved one is under the age of 25 years of age and has been charged with a nonviolent crime, consult us about options.

Youthful Offender Charged with a Crime?

If you or a younger family member has been charged with a crime and may qualify under the Youthful Defender Act, Contact an experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney  to find out how our law firm can help.  Having the right criminal defense attorney on your side can help prevent one mistake from destroying a young person’s potential to succeed in life. Call (803) 351-3597 today for a free consultation.