The 52-1 District Court is proud to have been selected as one of the three participating courts for this pilot program. The Oakland County Prosecutor's Office introduced this program to the court, and so far has had great success with it.
Teen Court is a juvenile diversion program aimed at keeping juveniles out of the court system. The teen defendant is brought to court with their peers serving as the prosecutor and jury in their case. The program is designed around the philosophy that a jury of one's peers is more influential in dealing with behavioral problems than any other method. The idea is that peer pressure can be used to create a positive as well as negative action. Teen Court relies upon the positive nature of peer pressure to deter defendants from becoming repeat offenders. In the Teen Court, proceedings confidentiality is stressed very heavily. Everyone in the courtroom takes an oath of confidentiality to insure the rights and privacy of the defendant are maintained.
The offenses that may be resolved in Teen Court vary at each session. Some of the offenses are Alcohol/Drug Offenses, Disorderly Conduct, Curfew Violations, Harassment, Minor Assault, Vandalism, Retail Fraud, Illegal entry, and traffic offenses as well.
During a session of Teen Court, the juvenile appears before a jury of their peers and is represented by a teen "defense attorney". A teen "prosecuting attorney" prosecutes the case. Adult attorneys mentor these teen "attorneys", while Judge Powers serves as judge. Each Teen Court defendant is required to have a parent (s) present during each step of the proceeding. The attorneys make an opening statement, the witness is questioned and cross-examined, ending with the jury being given an opportunity to ask questions. The jury then deliberates and makes a sentencing recommendation to the judge. If the Judge feels the sentence is appropriate, the defendant is ordered to comply. The prosecuting attorney serves as the probation officer, ensuring compliance with the sentence.
Some of the sentencing options include Teen Court Jury Duty, Oral/Written apologies, Community Service, Random Drug Screening, Restitution and in some cases counseling.
The goal of the Teen Court program is for all the participants to come away with a positive feeling about Teen Court. The "attorneys" have learned something about the law and the court system and get a chance to be active players in a very important role. The defendants may be thankful for their chance to resolve the matter through Teen Court before having to go to the juvenile court system. They also get the opportunity to by judged by their peers and not by an adult who may not understand things the way juveniles understand each other. Ideally, these young people will think twice about making decisions that could affect their lives negatively.
The benefits of this Teen Court program are numerous. Statistics have shown that communities using Teen Court as a part of their youth crime prevention program consistently report that 90% or more of the defendants who complete the sentence are never re-arrested. Teen Court can cut down the crime rate of teenagers as they learn to assume responsibility and be accountable for their actions because of early intervention. The process also allows young people to get involved within the community while interacting with their parents and guardians who must be involved in the process. The legal benefit of the program is that the juvenile's record is wiped clean for first time offenders.