Teen Court

Teens in 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 adult judge presides, and a jury of peers determines the sentence.

The Purpose of Teen Court

Teen Court is designed to educate youth about the judicial process. 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 juvenile defendants who successfully complete a sentence to keep their records clear.

How Teen Court Works

Teen Court cases are referred from the Aurora Municipal Court. The referrals are for first time offenses, generally occurring in the school community. 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. The process begins with a Teen Court intake interview that takes place after the defendant has admitted guilt and has been granted a deferred judgment and Teen Court referral by the prosecutor. Once accepted into the program, the defendant and his/her parents complete the necessary paperwork and then appear on the designated Teen Court date.

In a Teen Court sentencing hearing,the juvenile appears before a jury of his/her peers and is represented by a student attorney. In a Teen Court Magistrate Panel, the juvenile appears before a panel of his 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 are questioned by the defense and prosecution or by the panel. At times other witnesses, such as victims, parents and school officials may be called to provide additional evidence.

The peer 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.

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.

Student Volunteers

With students playing the roles of attorney, bailiff, clerk, and juror, volunteer recruitment is essential for the Teen Court program. 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.

Being a Teen Court volunteer requires commitment. This commitment is especially important for the volunteer positions that require extensive training such as student attorneys. 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.

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.

If you are interested in receiving more information about how to become a volunteer in the Teen Court program simply complete a Volunteer Application and mail it to the Aurora Teen Court, 14999 E. Alameda Parkway, Aurora, CO 80012. If you have further questions regarding being a volunteer in the program, please feel free to call 303.739.6543.

Program Schedule

The Aurora Teen Court holds sessions in Division 7 of the Aurora Municipal Justice Center located at 14999 E. Alameda Parkway, Aurora, CO 80012. Sessions are scheduled every Wednesday afternoon during the school year. The courtroom opens at 4 p.m. and the sessions generally end at 6:15 p.m.

Visitors are welcome to selected Teen Court sessions; those interested in visiting should contact the Teen Court office at 303.739.6544 for further information.

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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