Hopkins County Teen Court is an event to behold. Phrases like “If it pleases the court” and “No further questions your Honor” are used and used well. A trial, complete with a twelve member jury, takes place each month. Judge and Bailiffs aside, teens makeup the entire court. Both sides even interview potential jury members, and in turn strike potentials for various reasons.
At a basic level, Teen Court provides a way for high school enrolled students to keep a Class C violation conviction off their driving record. In exchange for this deferral rpogram the defendants are subject to a trial by peers, and a punishment returned by the jury. All defendant must voluntarily agree to the court, and in so doing, admit their guilt. The punishment phase includes mandatory participation in future teen court, letters of apology, and hours of community service. On the bench is Rachel Flatt Attorney at Law and Master jury judge Colin Miller. County law enforcement officers volunteer their time to provide security and complete the courtroom in a real way.
It is not an opportunity for ridicule and humiliation. It is a chance to experience adult responsibility. Pizza Inn, Little Caesars and Pizza Hut donate food for a pretrial meeting hosted by Coffee Off the Square.
The majority of cases involve moving violations. For example the docket for January 10th, 2017 included two cases. The first was speeding, 70 in and 60 mph zone, and the second 30 in a school zone.
Teen Court of Hopkins County is an alternative sentencing process for local teens to take care of Class C misdemeanor tickets. It is also a scholarship program for the teen Merit Club members who staff the court. It was started by the 1995-96 Adult Leadership Class in Sulphur Springs as a class project. Teen Court is supported and funded by the United Way, private and business donations.
A phrase heard repeatedly among the adults in attendance was, “I wish we had this when I was in high school.”
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