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Montgomery County's 'teen court' program

Montgomery County was the first county in Maryland to begin a teen court program concerning teenagers accused of a variety of juvenile crimes such as theft or other property crimes, drug possession and underage drinking. It has now been 15 years since this program was implemented, and it involves having other teenagers serve on a jury when one of their peers is charged with an offense.

The program concerns teenagers that have been arrested between the ages of 12 to 17 years of age. The sanctions that the teen jury members decide upon need to be completed by the alleged offender within 60 days of the verdict. Approximately 4,000 cases have been tried in this manner since 1997.

Whether such a program has been a success depends on one's point of view. However, it at least shows that court officials are trying to be imaginative in their solution to youths and crime.

When dealing with young people that have been arrested, there is danger in adults overreacting to what has occurred. Though one should be hesitant to label such purported acts as low level or minor crimes, the manner in which teenage offenders are handled needs to differ from that of adult offenders.

When a young person is charged with a crime, it is always a good idea to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney accustomed to dealing with such matters involving youth. If such behavior can be dealt with appropriately while the individual is still a youth, the chances of this individual continually to reoffend into his or her adult years is greatly reduced.

Source: The Washington Post, "Montgomery County's teen court, where teens decide punishment for peers, celebrating 15 years," May 23, 2012

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