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Teen Court

Teens in court

What is Teen Court?

The Aurora Teen Court is an educational diversion program that operates in the Aurora Municipal Court. The program provides an alternative response for the juvenile justice system for first-time, misdemeanor juvenile offenders, in which teens determine the appropriate sanctions for the offender. Teen Court allows youth in middle and high school after admitting guilt to have a “sentencing hearing” with students acting as prosecutor, defense attorney and jurors. An teen court judge presides, and a teen jury of peers determines the sentence.

What is the Purpose of Teen Court?

Aurora Teen Court is designed to educate youth about the judicial process. Teen defendants in Teen Court learn the importance of taking responsibility for their own actions as well as how their choices impact those around them. Teen Court gives young offenders the opportunity to make amends with their community through their participation and service. In addition, the program enhances respect for the judicial system and allows teen defendants who successfully complete a sentence to keep their records clear.

How does Teen Court Work?

Teen Court cases are referred from the Aurora Municipal Court. The referrals are for first time minor offenses, the juvenile must admit guilt in order to participate in the program. Cases involving serious injury, weapons, or gang issues are not eligible. Participation in the program is voluntary and a parent must be present at all stages. 

What happens at the sentencing hearing?

There are two types of Teen Court sentencing hearings. The teen defendant will either appear before a teen jury of their peers represented by a teen prosecutor in a Teen Court Magistrate Panel, the teen defendant appears before a panel their peers who both questions and determines the sentence. The proceedings in both settings are based on the principles of restorative justice. 

Each presentation seeks to identify the harm that was caused by the offense, the needs of the victim and the community, and the way in which the juvenile can make up for what they have done.

Defendants are required to testify. They’re questioned by a teen prosecutor, teen defense attorney or by the panel. At times other witnesses, such as victims, parents and school officials may be called to provide additional evidence.

What are the types of sentences given by Teen Court?

The teen jury is instructed on their role in the Teen Court hearing and is charged with the responsibility of determining a constructive sentence based on the evidence presented. Community service, future participation as a peer juror, letters of apology, written essays and educational classes are all sentencing options.

How long do teen defendants have to complete their sentences?

Teen Court defendants are required to complete their sentence within 60 days of their sentencing hearing. Defendants who successfully complete their Teen Court requirements and have no further violations during the one year deferred judgment period will have their cases dismissed. Defendants who violate the terms of the deferred judgment will be returned to the juvenile court for resolution of the case.

Who can Volunteer for Teen Court?

Any person thirteen years of age or older and under nineteen years of age who is enrolled in school. Volunteer recruitment is essential for the Teen Court program. The roles include attorney, bailiff, clerk, and jurors, Community and school presentations often are the best way to encourage youth to become involved. However, Teen Court visitors and previous defendants also become interested in the program based on their courtroom experiences.

What can I expect when volunteering for Teen Court?

Being a Teen Court volunteer requires commitment. This commitment is especially important for the volunteer positions that require extensive training such as teen prosecutors. There are a number of benefits for Teen Court volunteers. Participation will assist in improving conflict resolution, problem solving skills, feelings of self-worth, communication and assertiveness and respect for authority.

What are the benefits of volunteering for Teen Court?

Being a volunteer also provides an opportunity to help your peers, explore legal careers, make new friends, become involved in the community and gain a reference for college and future employment. Teen Court also has a well-developed volunteer recognition program that includes an annual recognition banquet for volunteers and families as well as scholarships for graduating seniors with a strong volunteer record.

How Do I volunteer for Teen Court?

If you are interested in receiving more information about how to become a volunteer in the Teen Court program please email [email protected] for an application.  If you have further questions regarding being a volunteer in the program, please feel free to call 303.739.6543.

Can I attend Teen Court as a visitor?

Visitors are welcome to selected Teen Court sessions; those interested in visiting should contact the Aurora Teen Court office at 303.739.6544 or email [email protected].

Teen Court asks that all participants, volunteers, and visitors respect the courtroom proceedings in their behavior and attire. Please dress appropriately. Neat and clean school type clothes are suggested.

Teen Court cases are real cases and the program upholds a standard of confidentiality. All participants and visitors agree not to divulge any information gained through their observation of and participation in a Teen Court session.

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