157 Kids and the Law What is a youthful offender? A youthful offender is a child between the ages of 14 and 18 who is indicted by a grand jury (a group of 23 adults) and can receive an adult sentence and/or a commitment to the Department of Youth Services to age 21. How does this happen? The Assistant District Attorney* (ADA) presents the case to the grand jury.The role of the grand jury is to listen to the allegations and the evidence introduced by the ADA and decide whether the evidence is enough to charge the child as a youthful offender. (A trial jury decides whether a person is guilty while a grand jury determines only whether there is enough evidence to charge a person with specific crimes.) If 12 or more members of the grand jury decide there is enough evidence, they issue a document accusing the person of a specific offense. This is an “indict- ment.” If they decide there is not enough evidence, it is called a “no bill” and the accused is discharged from the indictment proceedings. If the grand jury returns a no bill, an ADA can present the case again when a new grand jury is seated or a delinquency complaint can be brought in juvenile court. * Assistant district attorneys are also called the “Commonwealth” or “prosecu- tors” because they are the lawyers who represent the government (the Common- wealth of Massachusetts) and prosecute the case. Who may be indicted as a youthful offender? A child who is suspected of committing a felony (an act which if committed by an adult could result in a state prison sentence) while between the ages of 14 and 18 may be indicted as a youthful offender if one of the following applies: Youthful Offenders Youthful Offenders 12 12