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What is Teen Court?

Teen Court is a program that offers teenage offenders an important second chance - a chance to learn from their mistake without the high cost and stigma of a criminal record. Teen Court is a real justice program run by teens for teens. Juvenileís aged 12 through 17 who have committed a misdemeanor crime appear before a jury of their peers. The crime is generally a first offense, and the respondent must admit involvement since this is a disposition (sentencing) hearing only.

Teen Court is offered as a positive experience to divert a first time teen offender away from a pattern of criminal behavior. Cases heard in Teen Court involve crimes such as shoplifting, disorderly conduct, destruction of property and possession of alcohol to name a few. In Teen Court, volunteer teens perform the roles of the prosecuting and defense attorneys, bailiff, clerk and jury. The Judge is the only adult directly involved in the court proceedings.

After careful consideration of the facts, the jury deliberates and decides upon a constructive disposition, including a minimum number of community service hours and serving on at least one and up to four teen court juries .The respondent then has 60 days to complete the disposition and have the original charge dismissed. If the disposition is not completed, the case returns to the referring agency, for formal processing. Other sanctions include attending educational programs, writing essays and apology letters, and touring the Anne Arundel County Detention Center.

The Anne Arundel County Teen Court is a cooperative effort of the County Executive, Anne Arundel County State's Attorney's Office, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice, the Anne Arundel County Police Department, and the Leadership Anne Arundel Teen Court.

Since the Teen Courtís inception in January 1998, over 815 cases have come before the Teen Court. The program completion rate for offenders is around 81.78% with a recidivism rate of 10%. The Teen Court has assigned well over 20,192 community service hours to be completed by respondents. Currently the two locations being utilized by the Teen Court are the Glen Burnie and Annapolis District Court buildings.

The Severn River Lions Club continues to be an important part of the volunteer effort that keeps the Teen Court program successful. The program deals with kids that are first offenders in the juvenile justice system. The success of the program getting kids back on the right track gives the Lions a feeling of being involved in a worthwhile effort that makes a difference in young peopleís lives.

The program has impressed officials in other areas of the State. With the low recidivism rate mentioned above, new programs are starting up everywhere. Lions spending a couple hours serving as jury monitors will often see visitors from other jurisdictions watching the proceedings and taking new ideas back to their county.

From 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the District Court in Glen Burnie or Annapolis, on our assigned Wednesdays, volunteer Lions sit in on the trials then monitor and guide the deliberations of the student volunteer juries. The docket normally has five cases. There are usually at least 4 Lions attending the sessions and that allows for teams of two each to monitor the two juries.

Please contact Lion Don Rayment if you would like to attend one of this year's sessions once we have our schedule.

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