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What is Teen Peer Court Program?


Teen Peer Court is a program run by teens for teens. Teen offenders, between the ages of 13 and 17, who have committed a misdemeanor crime, have their cases heard by a jury of their peers. Teens perform the roles of prosecuting and defense attorneys, bailiff, clerk and jury. A local volunteer judge, or attorney Pro Tem, is the only adult directly involved in the Court proceedings.
The purpose of Teen Peer Court is to divert first time juvenile offenders from the traditional juvenile justice system through the intense court process, restorative justice sentencing, and supportive case management. Teen Peer Court provides an educational experience for the offender and teen volunteers. The teens are given "hands-on" experience with the legal process, familiarizing them with the court system and citizen civic duties.
Teen Peer Court enables young people a unique challenge and opportunity to demonstrate to adults and themselves their capacity for self-government and responsible citizenship.
Cases heard in Teen Peer Court are crimes such as shoplifting, possession of alcohol, criminal mischief, battery, and many other misdemeanor and minor felony offenses. Sources of referral are Law-enforcement, Juvenile Probation, and the District Attorney's Office.
The teen offender comes before Teen Peer Court having acknowledged guilt. The offender and their parent/guardian meet with the Teen Peer Court Coordinator for a pretrial interview to go over the rules and guidelines of the program. The Coordinator schedules the case and notifies defendant and guardians of court date. The coordinator identifies and assigns teen court volunteers and adult mentors.
In the Court session, after the teen clerk calls the case, the Judge explains the offense committed. The teen defense and prosecution attorneys then present the case to the teen jury through the testimony of the offender, the incident report, available witnesses, pertinent evidence, and opening and closing statements. After carefully listening to the facts, the teen jury deliberates the case and decides a constructive sentence for the offender.
The offender and their parent/guardian then meet with the Coordinator to sign a contract to complete the sentence they have received from the teen jury. Once the offender completes their sentence a successful completion report is sent to the District Attorney's Office, Juvenile Probation and the referring agency. If the offender does not complete their sentence or rejects the teen jury sentence, then their case is returned to the appropriate referral source for prosecution.
In October 2012, Teen Peer Court established the Santa Cruz Teen Peer Court - Peer Jury adjunct program. Following the same principles as the full Teen Court program, the Peer Jury program has allowed the program to expand to serve more first juvenile offenders. The Peer Jury hearings are closed proceedings. Teen Peer Court staff facilitate the proceedings, three to five scheduled teen jurors hear testimony from the defendant, family and witnesses, and the teen case presenter provides the peer jury with all mitigating and aggravating information about the case to help them establish the most appropriate restorative disposition for the juvenile offender.
For additional information about the Santa Cruz County Teen Peer Court Program, contact:
Amelia Bonilla, Project Specialist Phone: (831) 466-5709
Santa Cruz County Office of Education
400 Encinal St. Santa Cruz CA 95062

Teen Peer Court Training Schedule

Teen Peer Court



2017-2018 Teen Attorney Training Schedule
Santa Cruz County Office of Education
400 Encinal Street Santa Cruz, CA
October 18
Watsonville High School Room 4 (upstairs above main
250 E Beach St Watsonville, CA
April 25
Training starts at 4pm
Amelia Bonilla at 831-466-5709
Celeste Gutierrez 831-466-5713

Teen Peer Hearing Schedule

Teen peer court

2017-2018 Teen Peer Court Hearing Schedule
Santa Cruz
701 Ocean Street Santa Cruz, CA
November 8
May 16
1 Second Street Watsonville, CA
November 15
May 23
Doors open at 3:30pm – Hearings are from 4:00pm – 6:00pm
Amelia Bonilla at 831-466-5709
Celeste Gutierrez 831-466-5713