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Update on Teen Court Legislation

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2006
12 pages
This bulletin presents an overview of teen-court legislation in the United States in order to assist States interested in reviewing or drafting their own legislation, to identify those States that have existing teen-court legislation, and to review and discuss the common components of such legislation.
States enact legislation for teen courts for a number of reasons. Teen court leaders may introduce legislation in order to increase consistency and maintain minimal standards for teen court within the State. Mandating acceptable standards can increase program effectiveness and thereby protect all programs within a State. Also, teen-court legislation can mandate funding, State support, and limited immunity from civil liability. There are also arguments against teen-court legislation. It may restrict the flexibility of teen court programs in responding to the specific needs of particular areas. If States pass legislation, it should ensure that teen courts will retain their individuality under broad mandates that ensure acceptable standards. Considerations that should be discussed in the course of designing teen-court legislation are who will be impacted by the legislation, whose approval or assistance is necessary for the success of teen courts, who should be selected to represent the entities or groups on the planning committee, and who has experience in drafting legislation and in negotiating the legislative process. Suggestions are offered for addressing each of these matters. This bulletin lists the States with teen-court legislation and provides statutory references. Components that appear frequently in teen-court legislation include whether the program is adjudicatory or dispositional only, the types of cases the programs may handle, dispositional options, and funding options. These and other frequent components of teen-court legislation are reviewed. 4 tables and 87 notes

Date Published: September 1, 2006