Federal law prohibits anyone with a felony conviction from possessing a firearm or ammunition. States also impose a variety of restrictions on owning or possessing firearms. Many states also have a youthful offender program. The terms of these programs vary from state to state. In some states, youthful offenders are barred from possessing firearms.
In Alabama, where you are from, the youthful offender statute was intended to to protect young offenders by keeping them away from the harsher treatment they would receive if prosecuted or sentenced as an adult. Requests to be treated as a youthful offender are discretionary and a Judge may grant or deny them.
When a request is granted, a person who is sentenced as a youthful offender in Alabama does not end up with a criminal conviction. Al. law states that a person who is sentenced as a youthful offender has not pleaded guilty to a crime, only to the status of being a youthful offender. Also, youthful offenders in Alabama do not lose their civil rights or eligibility for public licenses.
Thus, it appears that in Alabama a youthful offender conviction does not prevent you from possessing a firearm. However, after pleading to being a youthful offender, you may be placed on probation for up to 3 years. A court could order that as a condition of probation, you may not possess a firearm. Read your probation conditions carefully. If you have any doubts, ask your attorney or your probation officer. Also keep in mind that while youthful offender status in Alabama offers a substantial benefit, it does not offer a complete free pass. If you are convicted of a crime in the future, the court will be allowed to consider your youthful offender offense in determining a sentence for the new crime.
For those of you in other states, please consult an experienced criminal defense attorney and ascertain how youthful offender status affects your rights ,
Jeralyn Merritt, Ask a Lawyer Criminal Law Panelist since 1998.