What is Teen Court?
Teen Court is a
voluntary juvenile justice diversionary program which allows
first time juvenile misdemeanor offenders to resolve their offenses
through an informal judicial diversionary process. The cases
are presented to a jury of the respondent's peers made up of
volunteers from local middle and high schools. The jury members
then assess a disposition (sentence) based on the evidence presented
during the hearing. Teen Court is a "hands on" educational opportunity,
which allows teen offenders and teen volunteers to better understand
our system of justice and the consequences of bad decision making.
Upon successful completion of Teen Court, the respondent's case
is closed and not forwarded to the Maryland Department of Juvenile
Services (DJS) or State's Attorney's Office as applicable, for
Who is Eligible
for Teen Court?
Youth, ages 11-17 who are a St. Mary's County, Maryland,
resident and currently enrolled in a school, may be referred
to Teen Court. Cases are selected for participation by the Teen
Court Coordinator, referred by the St. Mary's County State's
Attorney Office for selected traffic cases, referred by the
St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officers
(SRO), or from other sources. Typical criminal cases would include:
first-time misdemeanor offenses (such as a minor in possession
of alcohol, theft under $1,000, criminal mischief, and other
offenses), disruption of school operations, assault-2nd degree,
or affray. Traffic offenses would include: speeding, squealing
tires, failure to yield, failure to stop at a stop sign, running
a red light, or passing a school bus with its warning lights
operating. The respondent must enter a plea of involved (guilty)
for acceptance into the Teen Court Program. Parental consent
and participation is mandatory. Any victim involved is given
the opportunity to provide a victim impact statement either
in writing or in person at the hearing.
What is the
cost for the program?
This is no charge for respondents to participate in
the St Mary's County Teen Court Program; however, any applicable
restitution must be resolved prior to the Teen Court hearing.
There may be fees associated with some community service options
and/or assessments ordered by the jury.
When does the
Teen Court is a year-round program, operating under
the auspices of the St. Mary's County Government Department
of Aging and Human Services, in cooperation with the St. Mary's
County District Court, the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office,
the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, and the St. Mary's
County State's Attorney's Office. Court sessions are generally
scheduled for the second and fourth Monday of each month, depending
on case load at the District Courthouse in Leonardtown, MD.
Check the current Teen Court Calendar for scheduled
Teen Court real?
Yes. The cases are real and so are
the consequences. Teen Court was established as a cooperative
effort between the St. Mary's County District Court, the St.
Mary's County Sheriff's Office, the Maryland Department of Juvenile
Services, the St. Mary's County State's Attorney's Office, and
the St. Mary's County Government Department of Aging and Human
Services to provide a juvenile justice diversion program for
first-time misdemeanor offenders, ages 11-17 and first-time
traffic offenders under the age of 18, the opportunity to accept
accountability for their minor crimes without having to incur
a permanent criminal record or traffic court fines and points.
Failure to successfully complete the program would result in
the formal prosecution of the original charges.
A formal criminal record (including
a Juvenile one) can and will follow you and likely
affect you for the rest of your life.
Teen Court gives you the opportunity
to accept the responsibility (and consequences) of your
Keeps the offense from being
forwarded to DJS for formal processing in criminal cases.
For traffic cases, it can keep
you from getting the license points and/or fines more
significantly, the subsequent increase in insurance
rates that a traffic conviction would likely bring.
Turns a first-time mistake
into a positive "hands on" learning experience.
Reduces the chance of you
committing further criminal acts by increasing your
awareness of current laws and the consequences for breaking
You can acquire valuable work
experience doing community service hours.
The community benefits through
the service hours performed by you.
are the sanctions for a particular offense?
The sanctions imposed by a Teen Court
Jury are unique for each respondent and are based on the evidence
presented in court and are governed by the severity guidelines
provided by the Teen Court Program. Sanctions can include a
variety of consequences base on the nature and severity of the
offense. There are mandatory sanctions involving participation
in future Teen Court jury sessions and community service hours
that vary based on the severity of the offense. In addition
to the mandatory sanctions, the jury can impose additional sanctions
they feel are appropriate for the particular respondent's circumstance.
These can include, but are not limited to: letters of apology,
research papers, informal school probation, a newspaper project,
educational program referrals, alcohol abuse programs or special
projects the jury feels is appropriate, among others.
do I have to complete the program?
You will have up to ninety (90) days
from your Teen Court hearing date to complete the sanctions
imposed by the Teen Court jury. During this period you will
be on probation, meaning that if any delinquent or criminal
charges are brought against you during this time, your Teen
Court contract could be terminated and formal prosecution of
the original charge(s) initiated.
What happens if I don't
In criminal cases, if you fail to
complete the requirements of the Teen Court program your case
will be immediately forwarded to the Maryland Department of
Juvenile Services where you will be required to complete that
formal judicial process, and the offense will become a part
of your official criminal record.
In traffic cases, if you fail to complete the requirements of
the Teen Court Program, your case will be immediately returned
to the State's Attorney's Office, along with a failure to complete
notification, for appropriate disposition.
Is there a dress code?
The following is enforced for all respondents, jurors,
Neat and clean attire only. Dress pants and collared
shirt or blouse are very appropriate.
Girls may wear dresses or long skirts.
Solid colored jeans are acceptable only if they are not faded,
ripped or dirty.
- No caps or hats in the courtroom
- No short shorts or short skirts
- No tank tops or exposed midriffs
- No inappropriate logos on shirts
- No torn or dirty clothing
- No sagging pants or exposed
- Pagers or cell phones must
be turned off at all times
or possession of any tobacco product by anyone under the
age of 18 is restricted in accordance with Maryland State
Law and will be
Teen Court reserves the right to
refuse and/or terminate participation by anyone who does
not abide by the dress and conduct codes.
Community Service Worksites?
Community Service hours are a way
that the respondent can help repay the community for the
damage done by breaking its laws and for the opportunity
to come through Teen Court as an alternative to the consequences
of the formal system.
Community service is to be performed by the respondent
at a community, non-profit organization of their choosing
and approved by the Teen Court Coordinator.
It could be a local church group, a charitable organization,
or other qualifying public service group.
As an alternative and the respondent is age 16
or over, they can apply to participate in the St. Mary’s
County State’s Attorney’s Office Community Service Program.
If the respondent is interested in this alternative,
they can get a copy of the application form from the Teen
Sign up for this program is handled at the State’s
Attorney’s Office in Leonardtown on Tuesday, Wednesday,
and Thursday from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM and 1 PM to 3:30 PM.
The respondent is responsible for the associated
If the respondent is having difficulty locating a
community service organization, the Teen Court Coordinator
can recommend various community service opportunities.
I received a traffic citation and would like to go through Teen
Court. What do I do?
Within 30 days of receiving your
traffic citation, you must follow the instructions on the citation
to request a court date either in person or via mail. Once you
have a court date, you should contact the St. Mary's County
State's Attorney's Office located on the first floor of the
Carter Building, St. Mary's County Government Complex, to determine
if your case is eligible to be diverted to the Teen Court Program.
They will be able to give you specific instructions as to whether
your case is eligible to be placed on the stet docket. Once
approved by the State's Attorney's Office for diversion to Teen
Court, you will need to contact the Teen Court Coordinator to
schedule an intake. You and a parent or guardian will need to
bring a copy of the stet docket agreement as well as a copy
of your citation to the intake.
What happens if I am referred to Teen Court by a School Resource
You will be given a referral form with the phone number
of the Teen Court Coordinator. You should contact the Teen Court
Coordinator within two (2) days to set up an appointment for
your preliminary interview. Be aware that a copy of the referral
is also provided to the Teen Court Office. A parent or guardian
must attend the interview along with the teen. During the interview
you will be given a court date for your sentencing. After your
hearing, you will meet again with the Teen Court Coordinator
to review the sanctions imposed by the jury and sign a contract
agreeing to their completion. You will be provided with the
scheduled jury duty dates along with instructions on scheduling
and completing the other provisions of your sentence.
Can I be a respondent and come back and volunteer?
Yes. Many of the Teen Court volunteers
are former respondents. Having this background gives a unique perspective
since they have experienced it firsthand. Once a respondent has
completed their sanctions they are welcome to continue to participate
as a volunteer. See the
Teen Court Youth Volunteer Application.
Do you have opportunities for adult, as well as teen volunteers?
Volunteering with the St. Mary's County
Teen Court Program is an educational and rewarding opportunity for
both teens and adults. Perspective Volunteers are welcome to attend
Teen Court sessions and participate if desired. Teen Court is generally
held the second and fourth Monday from 5:30 PM to 8: 30 PM in the
St Mary's County District Court, located in the Carter State Office
Building, 23110 Leonard Hall Drive, Leonardtown, Maryland. Check
our calendar for specific dates. Volunteers need to arrive at the
courthouse by no later than 5:30 PM and enter through the
front doors to the court security station. When you arrive, a Teen
Court representative will greet you and direct youth volunteers
to the jury assembly area. Jurors are to remain in the Jury assembly
area until assigned to a jury or asked to sit in the court gallery
as an alternate juror.
|Teens, in grades 7-12 who are
currently a resident of St. Mary's County and enrolled in
a County middle or high school, may serve as attorneys,
bailiffs, court clerks, and jurors. Those teens wishing
to be attorneys should make their desire known to the Teen
Court Coordinator who will arrange for the appropriate training.
Teen Court Youth Volunteer Application.
|Adult assistance is essential
during court sessions and in the Teen Court office. Duties
include monitoring court sessions, serving as a jury monitor,
bailiff, enrolling respondents and volunteers, clerical
assistance, training teen volunteers, etc. See the
Teen Court Adult Volunteer Application.
|Practicing attorneys are welcome
to serve as Teen Court Community Judges and/or assist in
training teen attorneys. Please contact the Teen Court Coordinator
for additional information.
Does the time I spend as a Teen Court volunteer count towards my
Student Services Learning Project required for graduation?
Yes. Volunteer high school jury members
can receive hour for hour credit towards their community service
project hours required for graduation. The project record sheet
and guidelines are available from your school.
What happens when there is inclement weather on Teen Court Night?
Unless otherwise advised, in the event
that after school activities of the St. Mary's County Public
Schools are cancelled due to inclement weather or other
emergencies on the scheduled hearing date, there will be NO Teen
Court and your case will be rescheduled. You can also call the
Teen Court office on the day of court to confirm.
How is Teen Court funded?
The St. Mary's County Teen Court is a program
operated under the auspices of the St. Mary's County Government,
Department of Aging and Human Services, with future supplemental
funding potentially provided from state and/or private grants. Private
sponsors are needed to help provide recognition material for Teen
Court staff and youth volunteers.
How do I get more information?
Contact the Teen Court Coordinator with
any questions that you may have.