Teen Court: ‘An alternative form of justice’

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Two Brunswick County teens are facing consequences for criminal charges but those charges are going to be dismissed.

The two teens went to trial Tuesday night in teen court. Victoria was charged with having drug paraphernalia at school during her sophomore year.

“Scared, freaking out,” Victoria said. “I cried a lot.”

She said she has never gotten in trouble at school before.

“My ex-boyfriend came to school with my friend AJ’s bag,” Victoria said. “He said he didn’t know where AJ was. I said I had first period with AJ that I would take the bag to AJ.”

After someone looked in that bag, Victoria said she was reported to administration.

“He had pipes and rolling papers in there,” Victoria said.

She said it was a mistake that could have landed her in jail.

“They could have just taken me down to the police station and a mug shot and finger prints taken,” Victoria said.

Instead, she landed in front of a jury full of her peers in teen court.

“To have  if you will,” Teen Court Director Mary Beth Mount said.

Mount said it id a diversion program for teens ages 12-17 that commit a misdemeanor. She said prosecutors or the school system will recommend certain teens to them.

“Rather than being punishment, it’s meant to be something that they can learn from and to help them move forward,” Mount said.

The jury decides their sentence using community service, peer groups, restitution and written apologies.

“Once they’ve successfully completed the program, their charge is dismissed, so then they can move on with their life without a criminal record,” Mount said.

It is also real life experience for students like Tommy Harrelson.

“Most of the time I’m an attorney,” Harrelson said. “I do prosecution, defense. It varies and if they are short a bailiff, or a clerk of court, I’ll do that.”

It is an opportunity for him.

“Obviously the people that come in here have done something wrong, so you not only learn from their mistakes, you also learn from the mistakes you make while you’re presenting and talking to the jury,” Harrelson said.

It is a second chance for Victoria.

“Getting everything dropped and going on with life after that,” Victoria said.

Victoria told the jury she completed 20 hours of community service before she even got to trial. She also said she does not hang out with the same people anymore.

Mount said each case that goes to teen court also saves taxpayers $2,000 by them not going through the criminal justice system.

Categories: Brunswick, Local

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *