WJTV News Channel 12 - Teen court aims to give Dare County youth a second chance

Teen court aims to give Dare County youth a second chance

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MANTEO, N.C. -  Dare County is giving teens a second chance by sentencing them to teen court.

Nine years ago the county started a teen court program. The goal was to give teenagers who committed their first misdemeanor a second chance.

In 2013, 18 teens had their cases heard in front of their peers.

The court is comprised of teen volunteers who serve as defense attorneys, prosecutors, bailiffs, clerks, and jurors.

For the more than 30 teen court volunteers they say it’s an opportunity for kids their age learn from their mistakes.

“Everyone does make mistakes.  I think that they deserve the chance to say I'm wrong, I think I should help the community, as opposed to just put it on my record," said Mielke.

“By having this choice, and it not being able to go on your record, then those options are still open for you," said Murphy Grant.

The teen volunteers see cases ranging from shoplifting to possession of a controlled substance. During 9 On Your Side’s visit teens were facing charges for possession of marijuana, and possession of alcohol by a minor.

"You know that is a grave situation, because someone has actually committed a misdemeanor, and you can't take it as a light hearted thing," said seven year volunteer, Daniel Spruill.

Once the cases are presented, the jurors deliberate, and decide the sentence.

Teen defendants can face sentences that included volunteering in teen court, watching videos on the consequences of drug use, writing an apology letter, and additional hours of community service. The jury can also allow a defendant to serve their community service hours in a field of their interest.

"We are sentencing them in a way that they can be restored back into their community,” said Spruill.

“I think it's a really good program for kids to learn punishments, and how it isn't always going to ruin your life, and you can be restored back into the community," said Mielke.

If a teen doesn’t comply with their sentence their case is sent back to juvenile court.

Teen Court is funded by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

For more information about teen court, click here.

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