Walton County Teen Court Program
Walton County Teen Court is the only diversion program in Walton County. It is designed to hold juveniles accountable for their criminal or delinquent actions while offering them a second chance. Juvenile participants referred must be between the ages of 11 and 17 and first time offenders. Referrals are made to Teen Court either internally through the TASC program or externally by other community agencies such as the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Juvenile Court Judge. Once a juvenile is referred and completes the intake process, a hearing date is scheduled. The hearing process is very similar to that of a traditional court system. The positions of Judge, State Attorney, Defense Attorney are held by volunteers. Volunteers are typically students working towards scholarships or other academic goals. In the State of Florida, Juvenile Courts do not grant juveniles the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. However, Teen Courts are the only exception to this where juveniles are granted the privilege of such a trial. As part of the participation in Teen Court, sanctions are mandated by the jury and depend upon the nature of the crime being a misdemeanor or felony. Sanctions include Community Service hours, the juvenile must also return to serve on the juries of his peers, an oral court apology or written apologies to victims and other restorative actions. Juvenile participants have three months to complete the mandated sanctions and must remain crime free for an additional six months upon completion of the sanctions. An added incentive to each juvenile's successful completion is the fact that the Florida State Attorney will dismiss all charges and the Juvenile Record will in essence be clear of criminal findings. If a Juvenile participant fails to complete any process of Teen Court, he or she will be referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice for further criminal accountability.