Youth Court FAQ
What is Youth Court?
Imagine walking into a courtroom where the defendant and the court officers (i.e., attorneys, court clerk, bailiff, and jurors) all are under the age of 19. At first glance, it might appear as if a mock trial was being conducted. However, in a growing number of jurisdictions across the nation, this is exactly the type of setting and approach being used to handle minor juvenile cases. Teen courts, also called youth courts and peer courts, present an alternative approach to juvenile justice in which juvenile offenders are sentenced by a jury of their peers. These programs simultaneously offer education and "hands-on" experience in the legal system to the many community youth who volunteer.
What is the purpose of Youth Court?
Youth Court is a program designed to offer students the opportunity to participate in and understand how our judicial system operates. Through the many professions represented in the court, students gain experience in listening, problem solving, decision making, teamwork, conflict resolution, and community relations. Another purpose of Youth Court is to give the offender an opportunity to avoid having their offense placed on their permanent record. This opportunity exists not to provide an easy way out for offenders, but allows a student who makes a mistake the opportunity to learn from their fault and avoid serious judicial consequences (jail, hefty fines, etc.). To clarify, severe criminal acts and repeat offenders are not eligible for trial in Youth Court.
What will I do as a member of Youth Court?
Members of Youth Court serve in the various capacities of typical court hearings. Students serve as jurors, prosecutors, defenders, bailiffs, and clerks. Acting attorneys in the Greenville area serve as volunteer judges. It is expected that all participants in Youth Court will rotate roles. In other words, we want everyone to have the opportunity to serve in the various roles at least once.
What types of cases are heard in Youth Court?
There are only nine types of criminal offenses that will be eligible for Youth Court. These include: simple assault, petit larceny, disturbing a school, interfering with the operation of a school bus, public disorderly conduct, cigarettes, littering, truancy, and vandalism. Students who commit greater offenses or have committed a crime of similar nature before are not eligible for trial in Youth Court.
Who decides the fate of the defendant?
The jury of your peers will hear the case and then determine the punishment or consequence they feel is necessary. Typical punishments include community service, counseling, and payment for damages (if necessary). The presiding judge approves or rejects the jury’s punishment. If a punishment is deemed too severe, the judge will ask the jury to deliberate once more and decide on another punishment.
Does the defendant have to accept the jury’s decision?
A defendant has the right to accept or refuse the punishment offered to them. If the defendant refuses the punishment, he/she will then be tried in a real court of law and possibly face more severe punishment.
What if I know the student on trial?
The possibility of knowing the student on trial is very likely, as the cases you hear will come from MHS. However, strict confidentiality exists within Youth Court and participants, including the defendant, sign confidentiality agreements. In other words, trials and case building by attorneys cannot be discussed outside of Youth Court. Failure to comply with the confidentiality agreement can and will result with legal action.
Who is eligible to participate in Youth Court?
Any student at Mauldin High is eligible to participate in Youth Court. However, students with discipline records may be denied participation. Students in Youth Court are expected to model appropriate behavior. Teacher recommendations may also play a part in acceptance. Only twenty-five spots are available for Youth Court, thus, the application process is critical and rigorous. Members who fail to model appropriate behavior may be removed from Youth Court.
Will there be any fees?
Youth Court requires no fees. We only ask for students to be dedicated and participate according to Youth Court rules and guidelines. Participants will be expected to appear in court wearing professional attire (ties, dress shirts, and khakis for males, and appropriate length dresses/skirts or suits for females).
When and where will Youth Court meet?
Youth Court will meet according to the necessity for trials. Court hearings will occur on the final two Tuesdays of each month (as needed). Regular meeting dates for trial preparation will occur on Thursday afternoons as needed (Mr. Dodgens' room is free after 6th period if students are available to come early). After school prep sessions will conclude before 5pm. Students will be expected to monitor the MHS website and morning announcements for information pertaining to Youth Court. Attendance at meetings and trials is mandatory.
Preparation meetings will occur in room B-150 at MHS. Trials will be held at the Mauldin Court House in downtown Mauldin.
Who oversees Youth Court?
Mr. Dodgens and Officer Floyd, will be organizing Youth Court.
How will I know if I have been invited to Youth Court?
Letters of invitation will be distributed to your 4th period teachers. Students can expect the application process to take a minimum of two weeks once the application window has closed.