The Riverside Youth Court is an innovative approach to juvenile justice and acts as an early intervention for first-time offenders of misdemeanor crimes. It is designed to give youth between the ages of 10 and 17, who have broken the law and admitted their guilt, a second chance. Those who are eligible for the program will have the case heard in a real courtroom with youth serving as prosecuting and defense attorneys, court clerks, bailiffs and jurors. An adult judge will preside, but the youth jury will determine the sentence.
The Riverside Youth Court is also designed to educate youth about the juvenile justice system. Through direct participation, youth court addresses the juvenile’s responsibility for his or her behavior and holds the juvenile accountable to their community and peers. Involvement in youth court, either as a respondent or as a volunteer, increases their respect for the judicial process.
How does Youth Court work?
Cases dealing with misdemeanor crimes that have been committed within the city limits are referred directly to the Riverside Youth Court from the Riverside Police Department, Riverside County Probation Department and the Riverside Unified and Alvord Unified School Districts. Once a juvenile is referred to youth court, the juvenile and his or her parent will meet 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 child’s participation in the program.
The case is then scheduled for an adult judge trial or a peer jury trial. If the case is tried with the adult judge 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.
The primary function of the Riverside Youth Court is to determine a fair and restorative sentence for the juvenile respondent. Dispositions will include mandatory future jury duty, and one or more of the following: community service, letters of apology, essays, educational workshops, counseling, restitution, drug testing, jail tour, curfew restrictions, behavior contract, 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.
The Riverside Youth Court convenes twice a month.
All youth court volunteers will receive training in 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.
Training to become a Youth Court Volunteer
Riverside Youth Court has been developed as a part of the City of Riverside’s Juvenile Justice System. These are real cases, where juveniles have admitted guilt to a misdemeanor offense, but have chosen to be judged by their peers in determining the consequences of their actions.
Youth Court is open to all Riverside youth, ages 12-17 and 18 year olds still attending high school. Volunteer participants will learn about a respondent’s offense and will select a suitable disposition that is designed to hold the youth offender accountable for his/her actions as well as encourage future compliance with the law.
As a volunteer juror, you'll be able to participate in the program year round. Court sessions are held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Mandatory training is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Volunteers will receive 4 hours of community service for each youth court session they attend and 5 hours of community service for the training. If you would like more information, you can reach either of our Youth Court Coordinators at (951) 826-5544.
The Riverside Youth Court depends on volunteers. You can participate as a juror, bailiff, court clerk or attorney. If you would like to be involved in this exciting program, please submit your application by a date that will be announced at a different time. . We are certain you will find Youth Court an interesting and satisfying experience.
For more information, please contact the Youth Court Coordinator at (951) 826-5544 or email us at [email protected].