FAQs

WHAT IS YOUTH COURT?
Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to the criminal justice system for young people who have committed a crime or offense.  The goal of Youth Court is to intervene in early anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior, and to reduce the incidence and prevent the escalation of such behavior.
Youth Court strives to promote feelings of self-esteem and a desire for self-improvement, and to foster a healthy attitude toward rules and authority.  Youth Court also offers a law-related education program for students seeking to become members of the court. fault/files/youthcourt

WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUTH COURT?
A student who has not yet reached his or her eighteenth (18) birthday, and has admitted guilt to a crime or an offense as a first-time offender, appears for a sentencing hearing before a jury of peers.
The jury is presented with evidence relevant to sentencing, then deliberates and passes sentence. fault/files/youthcourt

WHO PARTICIPATES IN YOUTH COURT?
An adult serves as Director.  The offender must complete the sentence imposed by the jury, and in addition must sit as a juror on at least one, and possibly several, cases of other offenders.  The remaining jurors are drawn from any students wishing to volunteer.  Jurors do not take a course of instruction.  Rather, they hear and see evidence, listen to instructions from the judge, retire and deliberate in private, and agree on a sentence. fault/files/youthcourt

WHAT TYPES OF CASES ARE HEARD IN YOUTH COURT?
Cases are generally referred by police, probation and school officials to the Director, who accepts cases meeting established criteria.
Typical cases that may be heard in Youth Court include criminal mischief, larceny, trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct. fault/files/youthcourt

WHAT RIGHTS ARE WAIVED BY OFFENDERS?
Rights waived in Youth Court may include the right to an attorney, to a trial for determination of guilt, and to request a closed proceeding (for young people under the age of sixteen). fault/files/youthcourt

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO YOUTH COURT OFFENDERS?

  • Guaranteed Confidentiality
  • They will have nothing placed on their permanent record.  
  • Furthermore, offenders later serve as a juror, allowing them to participate on the positive side of the criminal justice system.
  • They are given a chance to make amends for what they did wrong.
  • Given a fair jury trial by their peers, whose pressures acts as a positive influence and counters typical negative peer pressure

fault/files/youthcourt

WHERE IS COURT HELD?
Depending on the location of that particular "youth court", trials take place in courthouses or schools.
See "Youth Court Update" section fault/files/youthcourt

HOW OFTEN DOES YOUTH COURT MEET?
This is entirely dependant upon the frequency of case referrals.  Cases average approximately one case per court, per month.  However, we are in the earliest stages of each court. fault/files/youthcourt

WON'T KIDS ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THE CASES THEY HEAR?
NO!!  What goes on in the courtroom stays in the courtroom.  Youth Court volunteers are trained on the necessity for confidentiality.  All courtroom personnel take an oath of confidentiality.  Furthermore, jurors sign a confidentiality agreement prior to each case.  Any confidentiality breaches will be met with stiff consequences that offenders are aware of, including their dismissal from the group.
The only discussion of a particular case occurs between volunteers and the Youth Court Director or between Youth Court volunteers serving as prosecuting and defense attorneys in closed settings.  Fortunately, no instances of confidentiality breaches have been reported. fault/files/youthcourt

SHOULD VOLUNTEERS WORRY ABOUT RETALIATION?
NO!!  As part of each offender's intake interview, the offender and guardian are made aware that no action is to be taken against any youth court volunteers, as they are simply doing their civic duty.  Any action taken will be met with firm consequences from the specific agency that made the referral.  Fortunately, no instances of retaliation have been reported. fault/files/youthcourt

WHAT TYPE OF SENTENCES DOES YOUTH COURT IMPOSE?
All sentences mandate at least one later jury sentence for each offender.  Additional sentences typically include community service and other rehabilitative and/or deterrent goals such as mediation, letters of apology, essays and/or jail tours. fault/files/youthcourt

WHAT HAPPENS IF AN OFFENDER DOES NOT COMPLY?
It is understood by offenders and their guardians that they have a certain amount of time to complete their sentence or their case will be referred back to the originating agency, which will impose its own type of punishment.