Teen Court

Mission


To provide first time misdemeanor youth offenders an opportunity to restore relationships within their communities and provide them the resources to improve future decision making.

History


The Harford County Teen Court was implemented in May 2010 and is managed by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Youth Services Division and the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy.

Program Goals


It is a voluntary diversion program that is used to resolve misdemeanor offenses without requiring intervention by the Department of Juvenile Services.

The idea of Teen Court is based on 2 principles: everyone has a right to be judged by a group of his or her peers, and people deserve a chance to make up for their mistakes. These diversion programs teach responsibility while restoring a sense of safety in the community.

Eligibility


Cases are referred by local law enforcement agencies, school systems, and the Department of Juvenile Services. 

To be eligible for the program, youth must:
  • Admit their guilt
  • Be first-time offenders
  • Have committed the offense in Harford County
  • Be between the ages of 11-17
At the initial meeting, the youth explains the incident in his/her own words and the coordinator determines whether the youth is eligible for a Teen Court hearing. In addition, every participant is required to have  a drug, alcohol, and mental health screening.

Hearings


At a Teen Court hearing, a jury of teens ask the juvenile offender questions to understand the incident and assist with determining appropriate sanctions. The jury then deliberate privately to decide what sanctions the youth offender should be given. 

Sanctions may include that the youth:
  • Attend anger management or educational programs
  • Complete community service
  • Complete other creative sanctions
  • Compose an essay
  • Participate in counseling
  • Serve jury duty
Harford County District Court judges preside over all of the Teen Court cases and approve recommended sanctions.

Volunteering


Volunteers can earn three service learning hours each session. The teen jury consists of students in grades eight to 12 who reside in Harford County or attend a Harford County public school. 

Adult volunteers act as guides for the teen jury.

Some jurors are strictly volunteers and others may have been past participants who have received jury duty as a sanction. Volunteers are expected to maintain confidentiality about what they observe in court at all times. 

Training is held twice a year for new volunteers. 

Email us or call 443-752-4217 to register for the next training session.