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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Teen Court?

Teen Court is a voluntary juvenile justice diversionary program which allows first time juvenile misdemeanor offenders to resolve their offenses through an informal judicial diversionary process. The cases are presented to a jury of the respondent's peers made up of volunteers from local middle and high schools. The jury members then assess a disposition (sentence) based on the evidence presented during the hearing. Teen Court is a "hands on" educational opportunity, which allows teen offenders and teen volunteers to better understand our system of justice and the consequences of bad decision making. Upon successful completion of Teen Court, the respondent's case is closed and not forwarded to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) or State's Attorney's Office as applicable, for formal processing.

Who is Eligible for Teen Court?

Youth, ages 11-17 who are a St. Mary's County, Maryland, resident and currently enrolled in a school, may be referred to Teen Court. Cases are selected for participation by the Teen Court Coordinator, referred by the St. Mary's County State's Attorney Office for selected traffic cases, referred by the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officers (SRO), or from other sources. Typical criminal cases would include: first-time misdemeanor offenses (such as a minor in possession of alcohol, theft under $1,000, criminal mischief, and other offenses), disruption of school operations, assault-2nd degree, or affray. Traffic offenses would include: speeding, squealing tires, failure to yield, failure to stop at a stop sign, running a red light, or passing a school bus with its warning lights operating. The respondent must enter a plea of involved (guilty) for acceptance into the Teen Court Program. Parental consent and participation is mandatory. Any victim involved is given the opportunity to provide a victim impact statement either in writing or in person at the hearing.

What is the cost for the program?

This is no charge for respondents to participate in the St Mary's County Teen Court Program; however, any applicable restitution must be resolved prior to the Teen Court hearing. There may be fees associated with some community service options and/or assessments ordered by the jury.

When does the program operate?

Teen Court is a year-round program, operating under the auspices of the St. Mary's County Government Department of Aging and Human Services, in cooperation with the St. Mary's County District Court, the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, and the St. Mary's County State's Attorney's Office. Court sessions are generally scheduled for the second and fourth Monday of each month, depending on case load at the District Courthouse in Leonardtown, MD.Check the current Teen Court Calendar for scheduled hearing dates.

Is Teen Court real?

Yes. The cases are real and so are the consequences. Teen Court was established as a cooperative effort between the St. Mary's County District Court, the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, the St. Mary's County State's Attorney's Office, and the St. Mary's County Government Department of Aging and Human Services to provide a juvenile justice diversion program for first-time misdemeanor offenders, ages 11-17 and first-time traffic offenders under the age of 18, the opportunity to accept accountability for their minor crimes without having to incur a permanent criminal record or traffic court fines and points. Failure to successfully complete the program would result in the formal prosecution of the original charges.

Why should I go to Teen Court?
  • A formal criminal record (including a Juvenile one) can and will follow you and likely affect you for the rest of your life.
  • Teen Court gives you the opportunity to accept the responsibility (and consequences) of your actions.
  • Keeps the offense from being forwarded to DJS for formal processing in criminal cases.
  • For traffic cases, it can keep you from getting the license points and/or fines more significantly, the subsequent increase in insurance rates that a traffic conviction would likely bring.
  • Turns a first-time mistake into a positive "hands on" learning experience.
  • Reduces the chance of you committing further criminal acts by increasing your awareness of current laws and the consequences for breaking them.
  • You can acquire valuable work experience doing community service hours.
  • The community benefits through the service hours performed by you.
What are the sanctions for a particular offense?

The sanctions imposed by a Teen Court Jury are unique for each respondent and are based on the evidence presented in court and are governed by the severity guidelines provided by the Teen Court Program. Sanctions can include a variety of consequences base on the nature and severity of the offense. There are mandatory sanctions involving participation in future Teen Court jury sessions and community service hours that vary based on the severity of the offense. In addition to the mandatory sanctions, the jury can impose additional sanctions they feel are appropriate for the particular respondent's circumstance. These can include, but are not limited to: letters of apology, research papers, informal school probation, a newspaper project, educational program referrals, alcohol abuse programs or special projects the jury feels is appropriate, among others.

How long do I have to complete the program?

You will have up to ninety (90) days from your Teen Court hearing date to complete the sanctions imposed by the Teen Court jury. During this period you will be on probation, meaning that if any delinquent or criminal charges are brought against you during this time, your Teen Court contract could be terminated and formal prosecution of the original charge(s) initiated.

What happens if I don't finish?

In criminal cases, if you fail to complete the requirements of the Teen Court program your case will be immediately forwarded to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services where you will be required to complete that formal judicial process, and the offense will become a part of your official criminal record. In traffic cases, if you fail to complete the requirements of the Teen Court Program, your case will be immediately returned to the State's Attorney's Office, along with a failure to complete notification, for appropriate disposition.

Is there a dress code?

The following is enforced for all respondents, jurors, and volunteers:

  • Neat and clean attire only. Dress pants and collared shirt or blouse are very appropriate.
  • Girls may wear dresses or long skirts. Solid colored jeans are acceptable only if they are not faded, ripped or dirty.
  • No caps or hats in the courtroom
  • No short shorts or short skirts
  • No tank tops or exposed midriffs
  • No inappropriate logos on shirts
  • No torn or dirty clothing
  • No sagging pants or exposed underwear
  • Pagers or cell phones must be turned off at all times

Smoking or possession of any tobacco product by anyone under the age of 18 is restricted in accordance with Maryland State Law and will be STRICTLY ENFORCED.

Teen Court reserves the right to refuse and/or terminate participation by anyone who does not abide by the dress and conduct codes.

Where are Community Service Worksites?

Community Service hours are a way that the respondent can help repay the community for the damage done by breaking its laws and for the opportunity to come through Teen Court as an alternative to the consequences of the formal system. Community service is to be performed by the respondent at a community, non-profit organization of their choosing and approved by the Teen Court Coordinator. It could be a local church group, a charitable organization, or other qualifying public service group. As an alternative and the respondent is age 16 or over, they can apply to participate in the St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney’s Office Community Service Program. If the respondent is interested in this alternative, they can get a copy of the application form from the Teen Court Coordinator. Sign up for this program is handled at the State’s Attorney’s Office in Leonardtown on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM and 1 PM to 3:30 PM. The respondent is responsible for the associated costs. If the respondent is having difficulty locating a community service organization, the Teen Court Coordinator can recommend various community service opportunities.

I received a traffic citation and would like to go through Teen Court. What do I do?

Within 30 days of receiving your traffic citation, you must follow the instructions on the citation to request a court date either in person or via mail. Once you have a court date, you should contact the St. Mary's County State's Attorney's Office located on the first floor of the Carter Building, St. Mary's County Government Complex, to determine if your case is eligible to be diverted to the Teen Court Program. They will be able to give you specific instructions as to whether your case is eligible to be placed on the stet docket. Once approved by the State's Attorney's Office for diversion to Teen Court, you will need to contact the Teen Court Coordinator to schedule an intake. You and a parent or guardian will need to bring a copy of the stet docket agreement as well as a copy of your citation to the intake.

What happens if I am referred to Teen Court by a School Resource Officer?

You will be given a referral form with the phone number of the Teen Court Coordinator. You should contact the Teen Court Coordinator within two (2) days to set up an appointment for your preliminary interview. Be aware that a copy of the referral is also provided to the Teen Court Office. A parent or guardian must attend the interview along with the teen. During the interview you will be given a court date for your sentencing. After your hearing, you will meet again with the Teen Court Coordinator to review the sanctions imposed by the jury and sign a contract agreeing to their completion. You will be provided with the scheduled jury duty dates along with instructions on scheduling and completing the other provisions of your sentence.

Can I be a respondent and come back and volunteer?

Yes. Many of the Teen Court volunteers are former respondents. Having this background gives a unique perspective since they have experienced it firsthand. Once a respondent has completed their sanctions they are welcome to continue to participate as a volunteer. See the Teen Court Youth Volunteer Application.

Do you have opportunities for adult, as well as teen volunteers?

Volunteering with the St. Mary's County Teen Court Program is an educational and rewarding opportunity for both teens and adults. Perspective Volunteers are welcome to attend Teen Court sessions and participate if desired. Teen Court is generally held the second and fourth Monday from 5:30 PM to 8: 30 PM in the St Mary's County District Court, located in the Carter State Office Building, 23110 Leonard Hall Drive, Leonardtown, Maryland. Check our calendar for specific dates. Volunteers need to arrive at the courthouse by no later than 5:30 PM and enter through the front doors to the court security station. When you arrive, a Teen Court representative will greet you and direct youth volunteers to the jury assembly area. Jurors are to remain in the Jury assembly area until assigned to a jury or asked to sit in the court gallery as an alternate juror.

  • Teens, in grades 7-12 who are currently a resident of St. Mary's County and enrolled in a County middle or high school, may serve as attorneys, bailiffs, court clerks, and jurors. Those teens wishing to be attorneys should make their desire known to the Teen Court Coordinator who will arrange for the appropriate training. See the Teen Court Youth Volunteer Application.
  • Adult assistance is essential during court sessions and in the Teen Court office. Duties include monitoring court sessions, serving as a jury monitor, bailiff, enrolling respondents and volunteers, clerical assistance, training teen volunteers, etc. See the Teen Court Adult Volunteer Application.
  • Practicing attorneys are welcome to serve as Teen Court Community Judges and/or assist in training teen attorneys. Please contact the Teen Court Coordinator for additional information.
Does the time I spend as a Teen Court volunteer count towards my Student Services Learning Project required for graduation?

Yes. Volunteer high school jury members can receive hour for hour credit towards their community service project hours required for graduation. The project record sheet and guidelines are available from your school.

What happens when there is inclement weather on Teen Court Night?

Unless otherwise advised, in the event that after school activities of the St. Mary's County Public Schools are cancelled due to inclement weather or other emergencies on the scheduled hearing date, there will be NO Teen Court and your case will be rescheduled. You can also call the Teen Court office on the day of court to confirm.

How is Teen Court funded?

The St. Mary's County Teen Court is a program operated under the auspices of the St. Mary's County Government, Department of Aging and Human Services, with future supplemental funding potentially provided from state and/or private grants. Private sponsors are needed to help provide recognition material for Teen Court staff and youth volunteers.

How do I get more information?

Contact the Teen Court Coordinator with any questions that you may have.