Teen Court is based on the philosophy that a youthful law violator is less likely to continue to be an offender when a jury of their peers decides their punishment. Teen Court has proven that it does 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. Teen Court helps the offender and the volunteer learn the responsibilities of being a good friend, family member and citizen in today's society.
A juvenile who accepts responsibility for the charge (guilty or no contest) in a first time misdemeanor case may be referred to Teen Court and become the defendant in a prosecutor, defense attorney, judge and jury setting. Every defendant serves on at least one Teen Court jury (as a sanction) and, once all other sanctions are met, the juvenile (defendant) can become a member of the Teen Court. Teen Court volunteers are students from area schools who have volunteered to serve in this judicial setting. Any student can serve on Teen Court. The requirements to serve are age, no pending charges or sanctions, and interest. Prior to actual participation, they receive extensive training in Courtroom Procedures, Juvenile Justice Procedures and Sanction Philosophy.
Adult and Teen Volunteer Opportunities
Adult Volunteers- Hearing Officers
Hearing Officers are essential to the Teen Court program. Potential volunteers must complete the background screening with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. The volunteer Hearing Officer conducts an informal hearing with the juvenile, the parents or guardian, the victim/complainant, witnesses and law enforcement. After considering all
information, the Hearing Officer determines guilt or non-guilt (CAP cases only), and assigns sanctions (all cases). Although no specific requirements are necessary, a Hearing Officer must have a sincere interest in juveniles. Certain personality traits have proven beneficial. Good decision making skills, as well as the ability to be direct and firm without being harsh, are very helpful in dealing with troubled youth and families. If you are interested in volunteering as a Hearing Officer, more information can be found here
Teen volunteers, ages 13 to 17 act as defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, bailiff, clerk and juror. The only participating adult in the courtroom is the Judge. Typical offenses include shoplifting, vandalism, minor battery, and disorderly conduct.
Teen Court Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Teen Court?
Teen Court is a program that gives first-time offenders between the ages of 10 and 17 a second chance, yet it holds them accountable for their actions. The defendant must stand before a jury of their peers, plead guilty and accept the sanctions given by the jury. Teen volunteers, 13 ages to 17 act as defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, bailiff, clerk and juror. The only participating adult in the courtroom is the Judge.
- May I attend jury duty for community service hours if I am in the PAY program?
Jury duty is an assigned sanction for PAY program participants and therefore cannot be counted as community service while in the PAY program.
- Will I have a criminal record if I successfully complete the Civil Citation program?
The added benefit to the Civil Citation program is that, if the juvenile successfully completes the program requirements, he/she will not have an arrest record, which is especially important when applying for a job or college scholarship.
- When does my program start?
The Teen Court program starts the day of your Teen Court hearing and is expected to last 90 days.
- Did my program start the day I was arrested?
The conditions of supervision started the day of your arrest and will remain in effect until your program ends in Teen Court.
- Where do I go to do my community service hours?
Your case officer will provide you with a list of approved work sites. We will also accept most non-profit agencies.
- Can I do my community service hours for my family business, relative and/or friends place?
Community service hours must be done with a non-profit organization.
- What time do I have to report for Teen Court jury duty?
Teen Court volunteers must report no later than 5:15 pm.
- Does my parent have to stay for my Teen Court hearing?
Parent/guardians are required to attend the juvenile's initial hearing and exit evaluation which occurs after the hearing.
- How many community service hours do I get for volunteering?
Community service hours vary depending on the type of service performed. Bailiffs, jurors and clerks receive 3 hours of community service hours, while Attorneys receive 4 hours of community service hours.