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How Teen Court Works

We appeal to the youth's sense of responsibility to complete everything in a timely manner and want to close with a successful completion.

Before the Courtroom Appearance:

  • Teen Court/Teen Court Too receives referrals, offenders ages 10-17, from the Department of Juvenile Justice or Juvenile Court.
  • The Coordinator of the program logs the child's name and charge and gives him/her a case number. A case file is now open for this youth.
  • A letter is sent to the parents of the offender informing them of an appointment for them to attend with their child in the Teen Court Office. This interview lasts approximately 35-40 minutes.
  • During this intake interview, the Coordinator assesses the offender's intent, attitude and the circumstances and determines whether or not to proceed with the youth in the Teen Court program.
  • A court date for the hearing is given to the parents along with the instructions for court and an agreement is signed by the youth if he/she is willing to abide by conditions to remain in the program, i.e. obey the rules at home, no new charges, no use of drugs or alcohol and no suspensions/unexcused absences from school.

Court:

  • The Coordinator prepares a docket for the hearing which is held on a Tuesday evening at 5:15 p.m. in the Manatee County Judicial Center on the 4th floor.
  • The defendant and his/her parents arrive to be interviewed by a teen attorney, if available. They review the summary of the incident and the interview with the Coordinator, which is prepared by the Coordinator, and prepare their defense.
  • The Teen Court Coordinator randomly chooses the juries from the teens present. Juries are selected for each defendant and, if a jury member has prior knowledge of the defendant, that person is not permitted to sit on the jury. All juries must be unbiased.
  • The Oath of Confidentiality is administered to everyone prior to the hearings beginning.

Court Begins:

  • The Judge, who may be a real Judge or a member of the Manatee County Bar Association who volunteers his/her time in the Teen Court courtroom, enters and calls the courtroom to order and in session.
  • After checking to be sure the attorneys are ready, the bailiff brings in the first defendant and the clerk reads the defendant's name and case number and we begin.
  • The attorneys makes opening statements regarding the defendant and the incident, then the Judge calls the defendant to the witness stand. The defendant swears to tell the truth.
  • The attorneys question the defendant regarding the facts of the case so that the jury can make a reasonable and appropriate sentence.
  • Once the questioning has concluded, the Judge asks the defendant to return to his/her seat at the attorney's table.
  • Now we have closing arguments during which time the attorneys ask for a just and appropriate sentence.

    The Sentence will include community service hours, to be served at a nonprofit agency in the community, and jury duties, which means returning on succeeding Tuesdays and sitting on a jury.

    Optional sentencing may include letters of apology to parents and/or victims, an essay on a related topic, curfew, house arrest or drivers license restriction.

  • While the jury deliberates the first case, the second case begins. When the second jury leaves the courtroom to deliberate, the first jury returns to render its decision.
  • The bailiff escorts the defendant and the parent(s) back to the courtroom to hear the sentence from the jury.

Once the sentence is returned:

  • The defendant and his/her parent(s) meet with the Coordinator or an adult volunteer to go over the sentence and transfer the information to a contract.
  • The contract will state not only the sentence bust also a time frame for completion.
  • After everything is explained--the sentence, due dates, pick-up times and places--the defendant and the parent(s) are asked to sign the contract with Teen Court, agreeing to fulfill the conditions in order to successfully complete the Teen Court program. 

After the court appearance: 

  • When all the conditions stated on the contract have been met, the Coordinator will send to the parent(s) of the offender a successful completion report. This closes the case.
  • If the offender fails to complete the sanctions in a timely manner, an unsuccessful completion report is mailed to the parent(s) and the file is sent to Juvenile Court and/or the State Attorney's Office. If the youth has been Court Ordered to complete Teen Court and fails, the case is returned to Juvenile Court.