Iredell County Teen Court
The purpose and intent of the program is to involve young people in taking responsibility for their actions, and to give the community an active role in dealing with juvenile offenders in the hopes of reducing recidivism rates of youth in the county.
Teen Court is an alternative system of Restorative Justice. It is a court where first time offenders are tried for misdemeanor offenses and offenders admit responsibility for their actions. Student volunteers take the roles of Clerk of Court, Bailiff, Defense and Prosecuting Attorneys, and Jurors. Local Attorneys and other community leaders volunteer and serve as Teen Court Judges. Teen Court empowers youth to work on ways to reduce crime and violence in their schools and communities.
WHAT'S THE PURPOSE OF TEEN COURT?
The program is based on the philosophy that a youthful law violator is less likely to continue to be a repeat offender when a jury of their peers decides the appropriate punishment. It is anticipated that Teen Court will interrupt developing patterns of criminal behavior by promoting feelings of self-esteem, motivation for self-improvement and a healthy attitude toward authority. Teen Court challenges the offenders, as well as the volunteer teens to perform at their highest level.
WHERE IS TEEN COURT HELD?
Cases are heard at the Iredell County Courthouse Annex on Water St. in downtown Statesville. First time defendants and attorneys will meet at 5:00, along with all volunteers reporting to the Teen Court Coordinator. Court begins at 6pm.
Schedule for 2017: The second and fourth Monday of each month, from 5:15 until 7:30 (subject to adjustments)
HOW DOES IT WORK?
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Adult referrals are received by the Teen Court coordinator. If the case is appropriate for Teen Court, the coordinator will contact the teen offender. The offender, along with a parent or guardian, will be interviewed by the coordinator. If the offender is willing to admit responsibility for the offense, then he/she may be selected to participate.
Participating in the Teen Court program as a defendant is a privilege. Teen Court provides a 2nd chance for 1st time offenders. Upon successful completion of ordered sanctions, defendants will have no juvenile or adult criminal record of the offense. With this said, it is very important that defendants understand the seriousness of the proceedings and agree to be responsible for their actions.
Teen Court does not determine guilt or innocence; admission of guilt is a requirement for being offered this voluntary diversion from criminal charges.The offender will then be assigned a date to appear in Teen Court to plead guilty before an adult judge and a trained jury of his peers.
In court, the defendant is asked questions by both the prosecuting and defense attorney and closing statements are made. The defendant is allowed to tell his or her account of what happened. The jury will then deliberate an appropriate sentence, including community service, a restorative justice process, teen court jury duty, letters of apology, drug assessments, life-skills classes, etc. All sentences, as monitored by the Teen Court coordinator, must be completed no later than 90 days. Successful completion results in NO CRIMINAL RECORD.
Once the hearing is complete the Teen Court staff meets with the client and their family immediately to explain the sentence and answer any questions they may have. Once the requirements are met the case is closed out. If the client is unsuccessful a detailed letter is sent to the referral source and the case is closed out.
HOW DOES TEEN COURT DIFFER FROM DISTRICT COURT?
Teen Court differs from a normal court process in two distinct ways.
- All Teen Court defendants admit their guilt prior to their hearing. This removes the responsibility of determining guilt from the jury and allows them to critically think about what punishments/sanctions would be appropriate for the offense committed.
- In Teen Court all the roles of the court are filled by teens except for the judge who is either a licensed attorney or actual judge. The lawyers, bailiff, clerk and jury members are all youth volunteers who volunteer their time to learning about the judiciary system and serving their community.
Offenders Benefit by:
- Keeping a clean record.
- Getting a second chance.
- Learning important lessons.
- Taking personal responsibility.
- Developing respect for authority.
- Positive appreciation of others.
- Positive motivation toward self-improvement.
Student Volunteers Benefit by:
- Direct experience with our legal system.
- Learning to work together.
- Future legal career possibilities.
- Developing basic leadership qualities.
- Developing self- worth.
- Being around positive role models.
- Strengthening personal bonds.
Community Benefits by:
- Empowering young people to change.
- Reducing recurrence of criminal behavior.
- Reaching young offenders at the most crucial time.
- Promoting positive attitudes.
- Rehabilitating young offenders.
- Improving school and community environments.
- Educating young people about their legal rights.
- Allowing the court system to focus on more serious offenses.
- Building leadership qualities and community awareness.