Riverside Police Department

Youth Court

Celebrating 20 Years of Restorative Justice

Since 2004, the Riverside Youth Court program has been a unique and innovative approach to juvenile justice, acting as an early intervention and diversion program for first-time offenders of misdemeanor crimes. Youth Court is designed to give youth between the ages of 10 and 17, who have broken the law and admitted their guilt, a second chance and is a positive alternative to traditional juvenile court proceedings. Respondents, or those who have committed infractions, are given the opportunity to have their cases heard by a jury of their peers, rather than facing formal legal consequences.

Our youth volunteers, aged 12 to 17 (or 18 if still in high school), play a crucial role in the Youth Court process. They serve as jurors, attorneys, advocates, and court clerks, gaining valuable insight into the legal system while actively participating in the administration of justice. An adult judge will preside over all Youth Court cases, but the youth jury will determine the respondent’s disposition. Through this hands-on experience, volunteers develop leadership skills, empathy, and a deeper understanding of civic responsibility.

We believe in the power of restorative justice and the potential for positive change within our youth. By engaging young people in the legal process and fostering a sense of accountability and community service, we aim to promote rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, respect for law enforcement and judicial system, and empower our future leaders.

Join us in shaping a brighter tomorrow by becoming a volunteer of the Riverside Youth Court program.


How does Riverside Youth Court work?


Cases dealing with misdemeanor crimes that have been committed within the City of Riverside limits are referred directly to the Riverside Youth Court program from officers of the Riverside Police Department, Riverside County Probation Department, and the Riverside and Alvord Unified School Districts. Once a juvenile is referred to Youth Court, the juvenile and his or her parent(s) will conduct an intake appointment with Youth Court staff to review the program requirements and sign all required paperwork. To be eligible for Youth Court, the juvenile must first admit guilt and the parent must consent in writing to their juvenile’s participation in the program.

The case is then scheduled for a court hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice. The case will be heard using one of three trial models: Attorney Trial Model, Peer Jury Model (No Attorney or Advocate), or Modified Peer Jury Model (Youth Advocate). A real adult judge will preside over all Youth Court cases.

If the case is tried using the Attorney Model, a youth defense attorney will represent the juvenile. The prosecutor will also be a youth attorney; adult attorneys are available to mentor the youth attorneys prior to the trial. In this model, each youth attorney makes an opening statement, the juvenile testifies and is cross-examined, both attorneys recommend a disposition, and the jury considers the facts of the case. The jury deliberates until it reaches a consensus in determining a fair disposition for the juvenile respondent.


The Peer Jury model does not use youth attorneys. Instead, the members of the jury are presented with the facts of the case in advance and prepare relevant questions. Each juror may ask questions directly to the juvenile respondent. The deliberation process is the same as it is in the adult judge model.

Using the Modified Peer Jury model, a youth advocate will represent the juvenile and will make a statement on behalf of the respondent. Members of the jury will be presented with the facts of the case in advance and prepare relevant questions. Each juror may ask questions directly to the juvenile respondent. The deliberation process is the same as it is in the attorney model.

The primary function of Riverside Youth Court is to determine a fair and restorative sentence for the juvenile respondent. Dispositions will include mandatory jury duty, community service, jail tour, and one or more of the following: letters of apology, essays, educational workshops, counseling, drug testing, curfew restrictions, school attendance/grade check, and other creative dispositions.

When the disposition is completed, the respondent’s case will be closed. No criminal charges will be filed in the traditional juvenile justice system and the juvenile will have no criminal record. Should the respondent fail to comply with his or her disposition or reoffends while on the program, the Youth Court case will be vacated and referred to the Riverside County Probation Department for traditional adjudication.


How to Become a Volunteer?


Riverside Youth Court is open to youth, ages 12-17- and 18-year-olds still attending high school. All volunteers must attend a mandatory training session held twice a year (March & August) prior to participating. The training session will give the volunteer an overview of the Riverside Youth Court program, the juvenile justice system, the concept of restorative justice, and the deliberation process. Each volunteer will receive 5 hours of community service for attending the training and an additional 4 hours of community service each time he/she participates in a court session.

Volunteers can participate in the program year-round. Court sessions are held twice a month on Wednesday evenings from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Riverside Hall of Justice in Downtown Riverside.

For more information on the Riverside Youth Court program, please contact the Youth Court Coordinator at (951) 826-5544 or email us at [email protected].

Interested in participating in the Youth Court Program? Click the button below and submit an interest form.