Teen Court

The Fountain Hills Community Teen Court is now in its 6th year. The result of the partnership of the Fountain Hills Municipal Court, the Maricopa County Juvenile Court Probation Office, the Fountain Hills High School, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Teen Court is a community diversion program that operates under the direction of Presiding Judge Ted Armbruster of the Fountain Hills Municipal Court and the community services division of the Maricopa County Juvenile Court.

Teen Court provides an alternative means of dispensing justice to selected juveniles charged with delinquent offenses. The program is open only to juveniles seventeen or under - usually first time offenders - who have committed a selected misdemeanor crime, status offense or traffic violation.

Teen Court is patterned after a traditional adult courtroom. An actual juvenile defendant eligible for the program must acknowledge responsibility for the offense and is directed to appear in Teen Court for sentencing. At the sentencing hearing, a jury of teen peers (either a teen jury or teen grand jury) will be present, hears the case, and sentences the defendant to constructive consequences.

High School age and middle school age students serve as jurors. The Presiding Judge of the Fountain Hills Municipal Court presides over the jury hearings; however, all other participants are students. Students participate as trained prosecuting and defense attorneys, clerk, bailiff, and victim’s advocate, as well as jurors.

Adult volunteers from our community help the students prepare for the cases and monitor their participation. Most teens are aware of the problems in their community and want to be part of the solution. Teen Court offers them a hands-on opportunity to learn about the criminal justice system and to influence their peers in a positive way.

Teen Court is a real program - not a mock exercise or simulation - that involves real cases and benefits actual juvenile defendants, the student participants, and the community. The defendant is able to avoid a formal adjudication in the criminal justice system and a criminal conviction if he or she timely complies with the consequences (sentence) imposed by the teen jury.

Teen Courts have proven to be the most successful of the various “diversion” programs that have been, or are currently being, used in the juvenile justice system. It has been shown in other teen courts around the country that defendants respond well to positive peer pressure, often receiving more creative and constructive consequences than imposed in the “traditional” system.

Student participants are able to develop public speaking and critical thinking skills through participation in the various roles, and can also receive credit toward their high school community service requirement. They have the opportunity to broaden their participation in the Teen Court from year to year through the High School Teen Court Club and can become mentors for new students in the program. The experience can also, of course, be a valuable addition to a college or employment application and resume.

Participation Opportunities
The Teen Court Club provides other opportunities to participating students. Speakers from various law-related or criminal justice professions have presented to the Teen Court Club. The Club has presented a successful Teen Driving Day for students and parents to obtain information from various agencies involved with teen driving issues.

Each year, Teen Court Club members tour all 3 branches of Arizona State government. Also each year, representatives from our Teen Court attend the Arizona Youth Court Association “Teen Court Summit.” There are flexible participation options in the program for interested students.

Additional Questions
Contact the Fountain Hills Municipal Court Presiding Judge at 480-816-5103 or Fountain Hills High School Teen Court Facilitator John Burnett at 480-664-5500.