Lawmaker Seeks End Of Youthful Offender Status For Felonies

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-State lawmakers are considering changes to how Alabama's "Youthful Offender" law works.

State Rep. Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) is drafting a bill that would prevent suspects who are under the age of 21 and charged with Class A felonies from claiming youthful offender status. Williams told WHNT News 19 that family members of a Monrovia boy who was killed last year have encouraged him to pursue the legislation, which would change the boundaries of one of the most sensitive and controversial provisions in Alabama's criminal code.

Williams cited the case of 6 year-old Matthew Dahl when talking about the importance of the legislation. Authorities said Matthew was riding his bike near house last year when he was struck and killed by a 19 year-old motorist who was speeding through the neighborhood. The suspect, Kyle Morgan, had initially request youthful offender status, a claim Williams said the current law was never intended for.

"It could be a blessing to them [families] to know that that [youthfull offender status] is not going to be on the table," said Williams. "I've learned youthful offender status was originally envisioned for the kid that gets caught rolling a yard with toilet paper or spraying graffiti...But when a young person decides to act in a way that can take the life of another innocent person, those are very serious decisions."

Under current law, defendants under 21 who receive youthful offender status can serve no more than three years behind bars, with all records connected to their case also under seal.

Reckless murder, rape and armed robbery are examples of crimes that would disqualify someone from youthful offender status if Rep. Williams' bill becomes law.