Everyone deserves a second chance, most especially young people, which is why Lutheran Services Florida’s (LSF) Teen Court programs in Santa Rosa and Oskaloosa counties help find solutions for teens who have hit a rough patch. LSF’s teen courts give youth a second chance to lead a productive life by offering alternatives to detention. In partnership with local government, the purpose of the program is to reduce relapse of first-time youth offenders, reduce the cases appearing in Juvenile Court, promote youth and adult volunteerism, and increase youth knowledge of the judicial system and career opportunities that exist within the judicial system.
Opportunity for First-time Youth Offenders
Youth between the ages of 10 and 17, who have a first-time offense, can access Teen Court to appear before a jury of their peers for sentencing and sanctions, rather than being thrown directly into the juvenile justice system. Youth volunteers fill the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, bailiffs, clerks, and jury members under the supervision of local attorneys and other adult volunteers. Offenses in Teen Court are limited to misdemeanors, traffic violations or school infractions that could lead to a misdemeanor charge and offenders must admit guilt before coming to Teen Court. Case referrals to the Teen Court come from the State Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the school system, traffic court, law enforcement or the county Clerk of Court.
Typical sanctions assigned by the Teen Court to a youth who has a first-time offense include jury duty, community service, letters of apology, essays, random drug testing, jail tours, no association with co-defendants, open court apology, mandatory school attendance, refraining from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and appropriate counseling (family, individual, drug or alcohol).
Career Exploration and Training
In addition, the program provides youth volunteers with opportunities for career exploration as they learn about the court systems through hands-on experience during their service as jurors, attorneys, bailiffs, and clerks.
The Teen Courts in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties are two of 51 such programs run throughout the state of Florida.
Santa Rosa Teen Court