I was prosecuted as an adult for a youthful offense
I have experienced first-hand the process, aftermath, and injustice of a youth who has been tried and convicted as an adult. At sixteen years old, I was the driver in a tragic automobile accident that forever changed my life and those involved. The consequences not only stripped me of my future goals and dreams, but also my best friend.
Since the night of my accident, my family and I have endured a difficult journey filled with both moments of hope and depths of despair. My first eye-opening experience of how the state and law enforcement flex their judicial muscle in unnecessary circumstance occurred about six months after my accident. Ignoring an agreement between the state and my counsel to turn myself in, the sheriff’s office forcefully served a warrant and exerted unnecessary use of violence. A day after my bond was posted, I was startled to see my mug shot staring back at me on the front page of the Lakeland Ledger newspaper. Being stigmatized at the age of 16 as a reckless criminal can result in the loss of one’s self worth and a loss of hope for a successful future. With the support and love of family and friends, I was able to succeed and become motivated to pursue and accomplish my goals.
In my four years on pre-trial release, I graduated high school with honors and went on to become a full-time college student and employee. This continued until I was sentenced in December 2012 to 14 years in prison followed by 10 years probation. Although I knew some form of punishment was inevitable, I was not prepared for the harsh reality of what ensued. I’d tried my best to show the court that I was young when I made an immature decision in an isolated incident which should not define my character or ability to be a positive member of society. The state had no interest in charging me as a youthful offender and recommended to the judge that I remain charged as an adult because of my intelligence as a juvenile at the time of the accident; however, intelligence is not indicative of maturity, especially in an adolescent. If I was convicted as a youthful offender, my maximum sentence would have been six years.
Knowing that my expected time to complete my Department of Corrections sentence will not be until I am 42 years old, for an accident that occurred when I was 16, is an unconceivable consequence to come to terms with. The state’s ability to respond to youth in the justice system as only incorrigible delinquents is a saddening injustice and a failure to the community and children involved.
- Patrick Mellan