Not all counties have a Teen Court, check with the juvenile court in your county to see if it is available.
Teen Court is a sentencing court with teens acting as the prosecutor, defense attorney, bailiffs, clerks, and jury; there is an actual judge that presides over the court. Before a defendant is sent to Teen Court that defendant must first be found guilty or plead guilty in Juvenile Court and then can be sent to Teen Court for sentencing. Teen Court juries cannot sentence the defendant to serve time in the detention center but can sentence the defendant to write letters of apology, community service, attend counseling, and more. If the juvenile completes everything the teen court jury requires, the juvenile’s case will be dismissed and the charges expunged from that juvenile's record meaning there will be no record of the charges. Teen court is a way to use positive peer pressure to influence the future decisions of the juvenile defendant and is educational for all the participants.
In Kentucky all juvenile court cases are confidential, so each participant in Teen Court must attend a formal swearing in ceremony where they take an oath of confidentiality. This assures the defendant that anything said in Teen Court will not be talked about in school or around town.
Types of Cases
The types of cases that can be heard are less serious cases such as shoplifting, truancy, harassment, minor drug offenses, minor traffic offenses, and even some Class D felonies if the judge decides they are appropriate for Teen Court. The defendants must be first time offenders and between the ages of 10 and 17. The students involved as court officials and jurors must be between the ages of 13 and 17.
What to expect
The juvenile defendant will be given an attorney who will be a high school student. That attorney will help to present any facts to the jury about the defendant to help the jury come to a sentence. There will be a teen prosecutor who will present facts to the teen jury about the defendant and offer the Commonwealth’s suggested sentence. Teen attorneys will have a licensed attorney mentor working with them to help with any questions that come up and to give direction.
Once the jury comes to a decision they will tell it to the judge and the judge will review it. If the judge agrees with what the jury suggests as a sentence, the judge will announce the decision in the courtroom and sentence the defendant to do all the things the jury requested.
Defendants have to complete the sentence within six months and report their progress to the teen court coordinator. The coordinator monitors the defendants and reports back to the judge if the defendants are not doing what they are supposed to do. If the defendant does all that is requested, the case will be dismissed and it will be removed from the juvenile’s record. If the defendant does NOT do what he is asked the case will be referred back to District Court and the defendant will be sentenced as a juvenile offender and the charges will appear on their juvenile record.
For more information on Teen Court contact:
Teen Court Program
Department of Juvenile Services
Administrative Office of the Courts
100 Millcreek Park
Frankfort, KY 40601