The juries in Teen Court are made up of trained high school volunteers, along with defendants who have previously been required to serve jury duty as a part of their sentence. All volunteers are trained by members of the local Bar association and court personnel. In contrast to other courts, Teen Court mandates that all defendants serve as jurors from Two to Twelve evenings at future Teen Court cases. Teen Court juries recommend participation in a community service agency as part of their sentence, with a minimum of fifteen hours and a maximum of one hundred hours. Other sanctions may be recommended such as drug urinalysis, boot camp, counseling, mentorship, essays, letters of apology, and restitution.
Teen Court is designed to expedite the cases of the first-time misdemeanor offenders. Teen Court is able to process cases within thirty days by having the defendants admit their guilt and waive their rights to a speedy trial. This process enables Teen Court to dispose of their cases in one-third the time of conventional Juvenile Court. If the defendant does not complete the program (i.e., sentence), the case is returned to the State Attorney's Office for trial in Juvenile Court before a Circuit Judge. If the defendant completes all sanctions, the original charge is dismissed.
Teen Court is a voluntary diversion program from Juvenile Court or school suspension and provides the following:
- A forum for defendants to explain their involvement in the offense
- A structured environment in which the words and actions of defendants who admit their wrongful acts are evaluated and judged by a jury of their peers
- The opportunity for defendants to accept responsibility for their actions by fulfilling the jury's sentence of community service hours and future jury duty assignments, both of which are designed to be constructive and rehabilitative.
- Respect for confidentiality
- Development of objectivity
- Respect for the rights of others
- Development of personal values
- Respect for societal values
- Acceptance of responsibility
- Respect for the justice system