Youth Court

 "JUSTICE FOR YOUTH BY YOUTH"

PURPOSE OF YOUTH COURT

Youth Court is designed to reduce repeat incidents of juvenile crime.  It diverts offending youth from the juvenile justice system, provides an alternative to the Family Court process and deters further contact with the police.

Positive peer pressure in the Youth Court setting is constructive and educational.  It provides for a more immediate and meaningful effect on the individual than the traditional juvenile justice system.  Youth Court is based on the premise that young people want to do what is right when making decisions.  Even those who make the wrong choice are often gratified to learn that they have the right to make amends in Youth Court.

Youth Court educates the youth who operate it to a better understanding of the laws and the workings of the justice system.  They develop public speaking skills, while providing an important service to their peers and the community.

Problem youth with minor offenses are often overlooked, but can be appropriately handled in Youth Court, benefiting the community, the police and themselves.

How Does Youth Court Work?

Participation:  By agreeing to participate in Youth Court the offender will appear before an assigned peer judge.  Trained youth defense counsel will be assigned to represent the offender and youth prosecutors will present the evidence.  A verdict will then be rendered.

Advantages:  Include no permanent record and the opportunity to be judged by peers.  This is offered as an alternative to Family Court and provides for a speedy disposition to cases involving youth.  All record are returned to parent or guardian at formal disposition.

Executive Director

Daily operations of the Youth Court are overseen by an Executive director.  The Executive Director works with offenders, families, jurors, members, and others in the community to ensure that Youth Court is effective in its mission to be constructive, rehabilitative, and educational.  A steering committee and a board of directors assist in this mission and in formulating operational procedure and policy.

What is the Youth Court?

The Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to the criminal justice system for young people who have committed a crime or an offense.  The goal of Youth Court is to intervene in early anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior, and to reduce the incidence and prevent the escalation of such behavior.

Youth Court strives to promote feelings of self esteem, a desire for self improvement, and to foster a healthy attitude towards rules and authority.  Youth Court also offers a law-related education program for young people who seek to become members of the court.

What Happens in Youth Court?

A youth, who has admitted guilt to a crime or an offense, appears for a sentencing hearing before an assigned judge of his/her peers.

The judge is presented with evidence relevant to sentencing, deliberates, and passes sentence. Sentencing typically includes community service up to forty-eight hours and may include specialized assignments, such as preparing an essay or letter of apology relating to the incident.  The case is finalized upon successful completion of the sentence.

Who Participates in Youth Court Proceedings?

Youth Court proceedings involve an offender and members in the role of judge, prosecutor, defender, and clerk/bailiff.  Each of these individuals is under age nineteen.  An adult serves as coordinator.

What Types of Cases are Heard in Youth Court?

Cases are usually referred by judges, police and probation departments to the Executive Director, who accepts cases meeting established criteria.  Typical cases that may be heard in Youth Court include shoplifting, criminal mischief, larceny, and vandalism.

Membership Requirements.

Members of Youth Court are volunteers, ages thirteen (13) through nineteen (19) years, who are enrolled in a public or private school and live in the Town of Orangetown.

Members also have completed a multi-week law-related education training program.  Areas of instruction include an overview of the criminal justice system from arrest through appeal, the organization, jurisdiction, and operation of Youth Court, the penal law, the consequences of crime, and sentencing issues, including aggravating and mitigating circumstances, rehabilitation as a goal, and the nature and type of evidence that is admissible and probative in sentencing.

The training program concludes with mock hearings to prepare members for participation in Youth Court proceedings.  Youth Court members will assume the following roles, on a rotating basis:

Judge:  Presides over the sentencing hearing, explains the criminal charge to the jury, instructs the jury on what evidence and factors to consider in determining a sentence, and sentences the offender in accordance with the jury's verdict.

Prosecutor:  Represents the interests of the people of the community, investigates the circumstances of the offense and background of the offender, presents evidence at the sentencing hearing, and makes a sentencing recommendation to the jury.

Defender:   Represents the interests of the offender, investigates the circumstances of the offense and background of the offender, presents evidence at the sentencing hearing, including mitigating evidence, and makes a sentencing recommendation to the jury.

Clerk/Bailiff:  Maintains accurate records of court proceedings, ensures smooth operation of court, and administers oaths.

What Benefits are Obtained and What Rights are Waived by Offenders?

By agreeing to proceed in Youth Court, an offender obtains certain benefits, and waives certain rights that otherwise would attach in traditional criminal justice processing.

Benefits include a decision by a jury of peers aimed at assisting the young person in desisting from criminal conduct, and an opportunity to participate positively in the criminal justice system, rather than an object of that system.

Rights waived in Youth Court may include the right of an attorney, to a trial for determination of guilt, and to request a closed proceeding (for young people under age sixteen).

For further information you can contact us at:
Detective Peter Maher, Executive Director or Mary K. Anselmi, Sr. Clerk
PHONE (845) 359-1775
FAX (845) 359-3721