Check out the webinar on Setting Up a Teen Court from October 20, 2016! Please visit the TMCEC Online Learning Center.
Thank you to all the attendees at the 2017 TMCEC Teen Court Planning Seminar!
Judge Randall Stump, Georgetown Municipal Court, trains municipal court staff on Texas laws related to Teen Court at the 2017 TMCEC Teen Court Planning Seminar
Teen courts provide a voluntary alternative to traditional adjudication and sentencing for teenagers in municipal or justice courts. Texas teen courts are governed by Section 45.052 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 54.032 of the Texas Family Code. Where offered, young defendants are able to plead no contest or guilty and have their case heard amongst peers. Typically, instead of paying a fine, the defendant’s penalty will be in the form of community service, educational programs, and/or future participation in teen court. Once the penalty is satisfied, the case is dismissed and the offense does not count as a conviction on the defendant’s record. Teen courts have proven very successful in preventing impaired driving and other traffic offenses committed by teenagers.
There are multiple aims of teen court. Rather than simply assessing a fine that will likely be paid for by the defendant’s parents, teen court requires the teen to answer personally for his or her wrongdoing. This helps prevent repeat offenses as the defendant will not want to spend more time doing community service or going to teen court. Also, when a case is tried in front of juries and lawyers comprised of one’s peers, there can be a profound effect on the defendant. Last, a subsidiary yet important goal is to promote respect for and understanding of the legal system.
In Texas there are a variety of teen court models. Each one is slightly different. Generally, a juvenile is referred to teen court by the municipal or justice court and has his or her case argued by a teen prosecuting attorney and teen defense attorney. A jury of the defendant’s peers deliberates and decides on a binding punishment for the defendant. These various roles are filled by teens fulfilling the punishment that was assessed upon them in teen court. Some courts have adult judges, some have teen judges, and some have adult volunteers who serve on teen court.
The types of trials vary: adult judge court, teen/peer judge court, master jury, tribunal jury, advocate court, plea in bar, and court supervised. TMCEC recommends that you observe the various types of teen court to determine what best suits your community and court.
The management of teen court also varies: some teen courts are run by cities or counties while some are run by non-profit boards or agencies.
Links to Resources to Help with Setting Up A Teen Court:
Texas Teen Court Association – the TTCA website contains a list of cities offering teen court, news, membership information, important dates, and more. TTCA members are known for generously sharing their forms, handouts, pamphlets, letters, and other useful materials.
National Association of Youth Courts – this national website contains a wealth of information and links.
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL TEEN COURT?
For more information contact TMCEC at 800.252.3718
A project of the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center
in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation