Teen Court Frequently Asked Questions
Any juvenile who breaks the law and is charged with any misdemeanor, has no prior record and admits guilt. Referrals come to us from the Department of Juvenile Justice and Juvenile Court.
The Manatee County State Attorney’s Office has pre-approved that ANY misdemeanor can be diverted to Teen Court. The only exception to this rule is a child accused of domestic battery when the victim is a parent/guardian. Also, no child may be referred that has been charged with any offense that is sexual in nature or gang related. In addition, non-violent felonies may be referred to Teen Court at the discretion of the Juvenile Court Judge and approval of the State Attorney.
Once a case is referred to TC/TCT, attendance and participation are mandatory. If a teen does not attend or participate, the case will be sent to Juvenile Court/State Attorney for prosecution. Most teens participate fully and appreciate the Teen Court experience.
If you don’t show up and you were referred, you should call the office to speak with the Coordinator, otherwise your case will be closed and forwarded to Juvenile Court/State Attorney. If you can’t show up, please call our office in advance at 941-741-4027.
Peers of the defendants occupy the roles of the attorneys, clerk, bailiff and the jury. The attorneys come early on court days, look over the docket and the cases and they decide who is going to prosecute or defend each defendant whose case is being heard that day. At a previously determined hour, the Judge enters the courtroom and we begin the first case. Each attorney makes opening statements, then we have the questioning period during which time the defendant, under oath, goes to the witness box and answers questions about the incident. The jury then listens to the defendant, observes his/her demeanor and assimilates the information. After the questioning is over, we have closing arguments during which time the attorneys ask for a specific sentence. The judge instructs the jury to go into the Jury Deliberation Room, pick a foreperson and unanimously arrive at a sentence. The sentence will be 15-60 hours of community service work and 3-8 jury duties. In addition some of the following sanctions may apply; letters of apology, essays, curfew, house arrest, suspension of driver’s license, if necessary drug classes and if applicable, restitution must be paid. The defendant and parents then sign a contract agreeing to complete the conditions within a prescribed time frame. If the sanctions are not completed within the prescribed time frame, the case will be closed and forwarded to Juvenile Court/State Attorney for prosecution.
We meet on the 4th floor of the Manatee County Judicial Center located at 1051 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton. Typically court is held every Tuesday evening throughout the year, however court may not be held during a holiday week (please refer to our Teen Court Dates and Information Page). Youth must report by 5:15 PM and court is normally concluded by 7:15 PM.
If someone wishes to observe our courtrooms, please notify us in advance by calling 941-741-4027 so we know who to expect. Also we require confidentiality for the participants present that evening and swear an oath of confidentiality prior to court starting.
Adult and youth volunteers are always welcome to attend on Tuesday evenings (please refer to our Teen Court Dates and Information Page) or you may call our office for more information.
The Teen Court jury decides on the sentence, fills out the sentencing form and pronounces the sentence to the Defendant in open court.
The case will be referred to Juvenile Court/State Attorney for prosecution. The State Attorney may file formal charges and the Defendant will be required to appear in Juvenile Court.
Attn: Teen Court
P.O. Box 25400
Bradenton, FL 34206
1115 Manatee Avenue West
Bradenton, FL 34205