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Williamson County court gives teen offenders a chance

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In Williamson County, teenagers who plead "guilty" or "no contest" to smaller crimes are being sentenced by their peers.

Teen court offers these teenagers options when it comes to their penalty phase and it also prevents anything from going on their permanent record

Take a closer look at this Williamson County courtroom. The prosecutor, defense attorney, even the judge, they're all teenagers.

"Some of these cases are really crazy, so it's going to be hard not to laugh," said 10th grader Laura King.

King plays the role of defense attorney during this teen court training. On February 18th, four real cases will be heard and a punishment handed down in the form of community service hours in Precinct 3.

"It's those little things that can slowly send you down that path and that's not anywhere that any juvenile should go," said King

Once a teen has pled guilty or "no contest" to a Class C Misdemeanor, a jury of their peers will decide their punishment, which can range from 10 hours of community service and a term as a jury member, all the way up to 50 hours, two terms on the jury and an educational class.

"The great part of Teen Court is that it's all wiped off your record," said PRECINCT 3 Justice of the Peace, Judge Bill Gravell Jr. "What we don't need are teenagers who are 21, 22, 23, trying to go off to college and get into the work world that have a criminal offense from when they're16 years old."

Teen court will hear everything from disorderly conduct, to cases where a minor is in possession of alcohol.

"Once it's on your record, that something you're going to carry with you for the rest of your life," said King

Law enforcement and legal profession adult volunteers monitor and advise teen court, but the kids are doing all the work.

"Just because we aren't adults, it doesn't mean that we can't take our roles seriously in society," said King.

This is part of the national teen court program. Precinct 2 has already been doing teen court fort several years, with great success.

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