1) WHAT IS TEEN COURT?
Teen Court is a sanctioning program of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit's Juvenile Diversion Program. Teen Court provides meaningful and constructive alternatives to the formal prosecution of young offenders who have accepted responsibility for their offense(s). This diversion program provides specific and immediate sanctions and services to youth. Teen Court is the only juvenile proceeding where criminal cases are considered by teens. The offender’s sanctions are decided by a Teen Court jury.
2) WHY IS TEEN COURT A GOOD ALTERNATIVE TO THE FORMAL JUVENILE COURT SYSTEM?
Teen Court utilizes the positive impact of peer pressure. The defendants are provided resources for individual and family services. The defendant does not have the stigma of an “official” court record. The victim and community are compensated for the criminal act. The defendants are encouraged to return to Teen Court as a student volunteer.
3) WHO QUALIFIES FOR TEEN COURT?
Teenage first time offenders ages 13 – 18 years old may qualify. The Juvenile Diversion Program Court Counselors determine the final eligibility.
4) WHO RUNS TEEN COURT?
Middle and high school student volunteers and sanctioned offenders participate in the roles of the jury, defense and prosecution attorneys. Pro bono attorneys participate as the Teen Court Judge and also assist in training the student attorneys.
5) WHAT IS THE DRESSCODE FOR TEEN COURT?
Please dress appropriately. Your attire should reflect conservative, respectful and professional dress for court. NO SHORTS, torn denim or athletic type clothing.
6) WHEN AND WHERE IS TEEN COURT?
Teen Court is held on Tuesday evenings from 5:30 pm to approximately 8:00 pm in the Edgecomb Courthouse, 800 Twiggs Street, Tampa, Florida 33602 on the 3rd floor.
7) HOW DOES TEEN COURT WORK?
Prior to participation in the Teen Court proceeding, all defendants and their parents/guardians are interviewed by Juvenile Diversion Program staff to gather information about the offense, the defendant, and the family. Additionally, the staff ensures that the defendant is one who would benefit from the Teen Court program. The defendant and parent/guardian are given a Teen Court Notice to Appear for their scheduled Tuesday evening appointment. The staff member will then prepare a case summary which is used in the courtroom proceeding. Most Teen Court proceedings follow a “Grand Jury” format whereby the student jurors ask questions of the defendant and then deliberate and determine a verdict. For the “Trial” proceeding, the volunteer student attorneys have been trained to present the case and ask questions of the defendant. The jurors will listen to the case,deliberate and determine a verdict. At the end of the proceeding, a staff member will meet with the defendant and parent/guardian to review the sanctions and sign an Agreement Contract. If the sanctions are completed, the defendant avoids formal prosecution in Juvenile Court. Failure to comply with the sanctions will result in referral to the State Attorney’s Office.
8) WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF TEEN COURT?
The principal goal of Teen Court is to hold young offenders accountable, by a jury of their peers, for their behavior. Jurors will impose sanctions that aim to repair some of the harm imposed on the victim and community, thereby reducing repeat offending.