July 2019 : Teen Court
Global Youth Justice, Inc. champions over 1800 volunteer-driven youth justice and juvenile justice diversion programs called Teen Court, Youth Court, Student Court, Peer Court and Peer Jury on five continents, making it the most replicated juvenile justice and youth justice program around the globe. The programs are volunteer-driven, inexpensive, adaptable, practical, scaleable, and are replicated widely in urban, rural, suburban and tribal settings.
Historic numbers of justice volunteers, including both youth and adults — make it possible to give youth a second and even third chance for minor crimes, offenses and/or violations. Adults and youth from hundreds of additional communities around the globe are in various stages of implementing one of these rapidly expanding, affordable, and youth-led diversion programs.
Florida currently hosts active Teen Court Programs in all of its judicial circuits, which operate in 53 of the state’s 67 counties.
What is Teen Court? The Teen Court concept is based on the philosophy that youthful offenders will not continue to offend when a jury of their peers punishes them. The program is open to juvenile first-time, misdemeanor offenders. This program allows them to emerge with a clean record, presuming all conditions of their sentence have been completed within the guidelines provided. The jury, which is comprised of teens, does not decide the guilt or innocence of the offender but assesses constructive sentencing for the offender who has pleaded guilty.
How does Teen Court work? Teen Court is made up of volunteers from local middle and high schools. These volunteers serve as jurors, clerks, and attorneys; the only adults in the program are the Coordinator and Judges. Defendants are required to serve as jurors in subsequent proceedings. The program is sponsored by the local county circuit judiciary. The defendant must be accompanied by his parent or legal guardian at the sanctioning hearing. The clerk swears in the defendant and administers the oath to the jurors to render a fair sentence based on the evidence presented. The defendant and the parents are the only witnesses. There is direct and cross examination of the defendant by both prosecuting and defense counsel. After closing arguments, the jury deliberates and agrees on sanctions for the defendant. Court is then reconvened and the sanctions are read.
Teen Court Sentencing
Each defendant receives from 40-75 hours of community service per charge, which must be performed at a non-profit organization. The defendant also must serve 4-8 jury duties in subsequent Teen Court proceedings. Restitution is required where applicable.
Each defendant receives 75-150 community service hours per charge. The defendant must serve between 10-12 jury duties. Beyond these sanctions, the jury is free to impose additional sanctions that range from a tour of the County Jail to apology letters to the victims, to writing special essays, to the imposition of a curfew. The youth may be referred to other agencies for other sanctions, such as anger management or counseling. These sanctions are limited only by the imagination of the jurors and the concept of fairness and reason.
The defendant has 90 days to complete all required sanctions for misdemeanors and 120 days for felony cases.
June 2019: Juvenile Drug Court Highlights
The Fifteenth Judicial Circuit's Delinquency Drug Court (DDC) is a 6 month program which targets youth who have a history of substance abuse. The DDC is committed to the goal of reducing juvenile crime and drug use. Success requires both the youth and family's participation throughout the program. Delinquency Drug Court is a three-phase program lasting a minimum of six months. Participants will work with treatment providers to develop treatment plans and will receive individual, group and family counseling. Other program components include: regular court appearances, frequent and random urinalysis, incentives and sanctions as well as educational support and monitoring. Progress in the program is reviewed regularly by the Drug Court Team. The program eligibility requirements are maintained by the court. A succinct summary is also the court website.
There is also a pilot project collaborative NCJFCJ JDC project in the 18th Circuit/Brevard delinquency court in Melbourne, which has established criteria and requirements. It functions as a felony level drug court diversion option. That program’s application form is attached as an FYI. Info is:
Recognizing the need for an alternative to prosecution and incarceration for drug offenders, Brevard County implemented the PTI Drug Court Program in 1994. Modeled after nationally recognized drug courts, it offers a continuum of drug education and treatment alternatives for felony drug offenders. The court proceedings are unique in that they are non-adversarial in nature with a dedicated Drug Court Judge who oversees each participant’s progress. The Drug Court Judge places the defendants in the program, monitors their progress and orders dismissal of the charge (or charges) when all program objectives have been satisfied. The Judge’s actions in Drug Court are not strictly to punish, but to hold the defendants accountable for their actions while receiving substance abuse treatment. Drug Court in Brevard County is part of a Program known as Pretrial Intervention (PTI). PTI Drug Court is a program of intensive supervision and treatment which is considered necessary for the rehabilitation of participants and the safety of the general public. Drug Court clients are supervised by the Department of Corrections until they graduate. Failure to comply will result in the criminal case being sent back to criminal court docket. Each phase is designed to become easier as the participant progresses.
- Phase 1 will be very intensive drug treatment. As they progress and show compliance, they will become eligible for Phase 2.
- Phase 2, which will include a step down in treatment. When they have shown they are on a solid path to success, they will be eligible for Phase 3 and enter Aftercare.
- Upon completion of Phase 3 (aftercare) they will be eligible for graduation. Everyone in the program is required to perform 50 hours of community service because everyone in the program must give something back to the community.
A summary of the court program can be found on the 18th circuit website.
Within the next year, OCI and the FCC/PSC judicial committees will be exploring and looking towards formulation of statewide standards for such courts statewide.
May 2019: Legislation
This year’s legislative session ended on May 4, 2019. The following bill passed and has been sent to the governor:
CS/HB 7125: The repeal of mandatory direct file is now part of this larger omnibus criminal justice bill (CS/HB 7125), which passed both chambers, and was enrolled/sent to the Governor. Repeal of mandatory direct file is included within the last few sections of the bill at section 75-section 76 (pgs. 289-292). CS/HB 7125 repeals all mandatory direct file provisions. Under the bill, a state attorney may direct file an information against a child who qualifies for discretionary direct file by:
- Committing an enumerated offense as a 14 or 15 year old;
- Committing a felony as a 16 or 17 year old; or
- Committing a misdemeanor with certain prior offenses. The bill does not change the judicial waiver or grand jury indictment transfer of juvenile as adult methods.
Other major provisions of the omnibus criminal justice reform bill are:
- Creates & revises numerous provisions relating to public safety including increases in threshold amounts for certain theft offenses; elimination or reduction of length of driver license revocation for certain offenses;
- Creates & revises provisions relating to expungement & sealing of records; revises provisions relating to inmate transitional assistance; revises provisions relating to probation violations; revises provisions relating to crime victim assistance;
- Revises provisions requiring mandatory direct file of juvenile offenders as adults for specified offenses.
- Revises youthful offender sentencing eligibility.
Additional Trauma resources for judges.
To better understand trauma and how to successfully address issues related to trauma in the courtroom, the following resources are essential reading:
Family Court Tool Kit: Trauma and Child Development - developed by the Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court (Link is to the Court Implications section of the tool kit.)
Bench Card for the Trauma-Informed Judge - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges)
10 Things Every Juvenile Court Judge Should Know about Trauma and Delinquency - developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network