The 19th Judicial Circuit, in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office, Department of Juvenile Justice, various high schools throughout the Circuit, and the Public Defender’s Office, developed a diversion program that encourages a wide variety of both educational and discipline roles.
Teen Court gives teenagers an opportunity to role play as attorneys, clerks, bailiffs and jurors who decide the sentence for certain first-time misdemeanor offenses. Teen Court provides teens "hands-on" experience in a supervised atmosphere emphasizing professional and educational benefits to its participants. These programs allow students to start thinking about and exploring possible career opportunities before entering college and selecting a major.
A goal of Teen Court is to encourage young people to accept responsibility for delinquent acts through punitive sanctions and positive peer review. Additionally, Teen Court aspires to promote self-esteem, motivation for self-improvement and a positive attitude toward authority. The benefit of Teen Court to the juvenile defendant is that if he/she completes the sanctions given by the Teen Court jury, the juvenile will not have a criminal conviction on his/her record.
The educational component of Teen Court immediately becomes apparent when one observes the program in operation. Extensive time and training is provided by the various high school teachers, local attorneys, judges, law enforcement agencies and the Teen Court staff. These individuals continually educate students in a variety of areas including:
- arguing constructively and effectively in a formal proceeding
- following proper courtroom procedure
- appropriate direct and cross examination of a witness
- entering documents into evidence
- the art of improvising
- zealous representation of a client
Actual minor delinquency cases are referred to Teen Court. They include, but are not limited to, the following: petit theft, retail theft, trespass, loitering/prowling, disorderly Conduct, possession of tobacco, harassing phone calls, vandalism/property damage and criminal mischief.
Indian River County - There are no participating schools at this time
Martin County - There are no participating schools at this time
Okeechobee County - Okeechobee High School
St. Lucie County - St. Lucie West Centennial High School, Fort Pierce Central High School, Fort Pierce Westwood High School and Treasure Coast High School