Friendswood to launch court for teens
Friendswood's Municipal Court will soon launch a division in which juvenile
defendants can face a jury of their young peers.
Municipal Court defendants who are Friendswood residents and between the
ages of 10 and 17, or older than 17 and enrolled full-time in a secondary
school, will be able to request that their cases be handled in Teen Court.
Teens between the ages of 14 and 17 will be able to volunteer to serve as
jurors, who will be able to dole out sentences including community service
hours. A "discipline grid" on the court's website charts out what amounts of service
can be imposed according to the nature of the offense.
They can also serve as bailiffs, clerks, and prosecution or defense
councils. To volunteer for these roles, they must be enrolled in
Friendswood, Clear Brook, or Clear Springs High School.
"It is difficult to say what the demand is or will be, but we hope that it
is well utilized," says Assistant City Manager Nick Haby. "It is, in
essence, a pilot program."
Haby says that Friendswood Municipal Court handled 710 juvenile offenders
under age 18 in 2008, and 797 in 2009.
He says Teen Court would be able to handle a range of offenses,
including "traffic violations, disorderly conduct violations, curfew violations, simple
assault, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal mischief, and alcohol
violations." Other kinds of charges, such as tobacco possession by a minor
and truancy, could not be heard in Teen Court.
Haby calls the program "community-service oriented," and hopes it will help
teens in Friendswood understand the court system. "We believe that it will
benefit both the defendant and the community."
Anyone interested in the program can reach the Friendswood Teen Court
coordinator at 281-996-3378, mailbox No. 8336, or
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