Teens who have received a citation for a traffic violation or a Class-C criminal offense are too often on the road to trouble. Many teens who find themselves in the criminal court system, and city and county jails, started out with traffic violations and Class C criminal offenses. The Teen Court is an alternative to the adult criminal justice system. The Teen Court offers teen offenders an opportunity to make restitution for their offenses through community services or other appropriate punishment, thus avoiding fines and sentences handed down by an adult criminal justice system.
It is our belief that a youthful violator learns nothing by being given a simple fine. Too often, parents are the ones paying fines and the youth may or may not have been exposed to the consequences of this offense.
Through community service and education, it is hoped that a youth offender will better understand the consequences of breaking the laws of our society. To this end, the Teen Court is set up to not only be an alternative to the criminal justice system, but a "hands on" educational opportunity to learn how our system of justice works.
Some teens at Teen Court are not even offenders-they are volunteers. For these teens, Teen Court represents a different kind of experience but one that is just as vital.
Authority for Teen Court
The 71st Texas Legislature in 1989 passed amendments to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (Chapter 45, Article 45.55) and the Texas Family Code (Chapter 54, 54.32) relating to dismissal of certain misdemeanor charges upon the completion of a teen court program.
Persons under the age of 18 or who are enrolled full time in an accredited secondary school for a high school diploma, may request Teen Court for most Class C misdemeanors (such as minor in possession or minor consuming alcohol, public intoxication, assault, public order crimes, and theft under $20) and certain traffic offenses.
Only 1 citation may be referred to the Teen Court Program within a two-year period from the Municipal Court or Justice Court. Other types of citations may be referred to Teen Court upon recommendation of the Municipal Court or Justice Court Judges, the school system, Juvenile Probation Department, or the Police Department.
Under Article 45.55 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, successful completion within 90 day period results in dismissal of the citation which may not be part of the defendant's criminal record or driving record or used for any other purpose. Teen Court records are not open to the public. Youths brought before the Teen Court are given the chance to make restitution for their offense. This is a voluntary program-youths are not required to participate. The consent of parent or guardian is required.
Teen Court Sign Up
Youths who receive citations first appear before the Municipal Court Judge or the Justice of the Peace, depending on the case. At that court, teens must appear with their parent/guardian and enter a plea of "guilty" or nolo contendere" to request referral to Teen Court. There is a non-refundable fee of $10, due upon request for Teen Court along with court fees. Teens and their parent/guardian must contact the Teen Court Director to set a Teen Court appearance and discuss rules, regulations, and procedures of the program.
Participants should contact their chosen agency promptly to ensure adequate time for completion within 90 day time period. Community service work is available for non-profit or governmental agencies or schools throughout the area. Each youth is responsible for setting his schedule, performing the work and reporting the completed hours in writing to the Teen Court office.
Dress Code for Teen Court
- No inappropriate tee-shirts
- No shorts
- No tank tops
- Jeans (neat and clean) are allowed
- Shirts must be tucked in
Howard County Teen Court Penal Code, Effective January 1, 1999
- 4-10 Community Service Hours
- 1-2 Jury Duties
- All traffic tickets not specifically named as a Rank 2
- 11-20 Community Service Hours
- 2-3 Jury Duties
- Any traffic citation issued in conjunction with an accident
- Drivers license restrictions
- No drivers license
- No seat belt
- Speeding 15 miles per hour over speed limit
- Speeding ticket in school zone
- 21-30 Community Service Hours
- 3-4 Jury Duties
- Curfew violation
- Disorderly conduct (language or fighting)
- Minor in possession of tobacco
- Theft under $20
- 31-40 Community Service Hours
- 4-5 Jury Duties
- Assault with simple injury
- Criminal trespass (general)
- Theft from $20.01-$50
- 41-50 Community Service Hours
- 5-6 Jury Duties
- Criminal mischief/vandalism under $50
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
Additional Forms of Punishment Which Can Be Required
- Defensive Driving
- Formal letter of Apology or Personal Apology
Failure to Complete the Teen Court Program
Failure to complete the Teen Court program 90 days from referral results in payment of the originally set fine and a conviction on the defendant's record.