Teen Court is a diversion program designed for youth offenders, age 12-17, who have no prior criminal record, and are still enrolled in school. Youth make restitution for their offense through community service, jury duty, and educational assignments. Participation in the program is voluntary and based on the understanding that the defendant must admit guilt.
The program is designed to inform youth offenders about the court system, and to allow them to explain their involvement in the offense to a group of their peers in a court setting. Teen Court demonstrates the influence of positive peer pressure and allows young people to realize they can play a meaningful role in reducing crime their community.
- Reduce the likelihood of youth re-offending.
- Minimize negative labelling of youth offenders.
- Require young people to take responsibility for their actions.
- Provide restitution to the victims and the community.
- Allow the community to have an active role in addressing youth crime.
- Educate youth about the criminal justice system.
How does it work?
The process begins when the Teen Court coordinator receives a referral. Referrals to the program are received from Juvenile Court Counsellors, Student Resource Officers, and District Court. Once the coordinator deems the case appropriate for Teen Court, an intake appointment with the defendant and his or her parent or guardian is scheduled. At the intake appointment, the program guidelines are explained and a Teen Court hearing is scheduled.
At the Teen Court hearing, the facts are presented to the courtroom by teen attorneys, and the defendant is called to the stand to answer questions regarding the offense. The teen jury, which includes volunteers and past defendants, then retires to the deliberation room to decide on a constructive sentence. The jury then issues a constructive sentence to the defendant and he or she has ninety days to complete the sanctions. Upon successful completion of the constructive sentence, the coordinator notifies the referring agency, and the charge is dismissed.
Who attends Teen Court?
Teen Court consists of teen and adult volunteers, defendants and their parent/guardian, and an adult judge. Teen volunteers are from middle and high schools, and serve as bailiff, clerk, jury members, and attorneys. The adult judge is typically a local attorney or judge. Other adult volunteers serve as jury monitors and exit interviewers.
Who benefits and how?
The defendants, volunteers, and community all stand to benefit from Teen Court.
Defendants benefit by…
The opportunity to learn positive behavioral patterns. Admitting their guilt, serving their sentence, and having their criminal charge dismissed. Having a second chance to become a valuable member of the community.
Volunteers benefit by…
Learning how to work together as community members in the democratic process. Being able to look into future career possibilities and “hands on” experience in our legal system.
The Community benefits by…
Having youth get an early preview into what breaking the law can lead to. Saving hundreds of dollars in juvenile and district court expenses.
“Like” Teen Court of Lenoir County on Facebook to receive reminders for teen court sessions, and volunteer training events: www.facebook.com/tclenoir
Teen Court of Lenoir County is a Juvenile Crime Prevention Council Program, sponsored by the Prevention and Treatment Center and Lenoir County; and funded by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Division of Juvenile Justice.
Teen Court of Lenoir County is an active member of the North Carolina Teen Court Association.