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home : news : law enforcement March 2, 2021

1/25/2021 7:08:00 PM
Lincoln County Implements Teen Court Program
For more information or to find out how to volunteer contact Laura Mitchell (Teen Court Coordinator) at 704-686-9576 or
For more information or to
find out how to volunteer
contact Laura Mitchell
(Teen Court Coordinator)
at 704-686-9576 or

Lincoln County Sheriff's
Office Press Release

LINCOLNTON, N.C. - Lincoln County has recently implemented a Teen Court program, which is an alternative system of restorative justice where youth, who are responsible for an illegal or disruptive action, are tried for (mostly) misdemeanor offenses. It empowers youth to work on ways to reduce crime and violence in their schools and communities. Student volunteers take the roles of Clerk of Court, Bailiff, Defense and Prosecuting Attorneys, and Jurors. Local attorneys, magistrates, and other community leaders volunteer and serve as Teen Court judges.

The program is based on the philosophy that a youthful law violator is less likely to continue to repeat the harms done, when a jury of their peers decides the appropriate punishment. It is anticipated that Teen Court will interrupt developing patterns of anti-social behavior by promoting feelings of self-esteem, motivation for self-improvement and a healthy attitude toward authority. Teen Court challenges those responsible, as well as the volunteer teens, to perform at their highest level.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office First Sergeant Richard Calhoun stated, “The LCSO School Resource Officers have already begun taking advantage of this wonderful program by referring cases involving students at their respective schools to Teen Court. Calhoun went on to say, “Teen Court has been extremely successful in surrounding counties and I am very excited to have this new referral tool available for our officers to utilize in Lincoln County.”

Referrals are received by the Teen Court coordinator. If the case is appropriate for Teen Court, the coordinator will contact the responsible youth and their family. The youth, along with a parent or guardian, will be interviewed by the coordinator. If the youth is willing to admit responsibility for the harm done, then he/she may be selected to participate.

Participating in the Teen Court program as a defendant is a privilege. Upon successful completion of ordered sanctions, the responsible youth will have no juvenile or adult criminal record of the offense. With this said, it is very important that youth understand the seriousness of the proceedings and agree to take responsibility for their actions. Teen Court does not determine guilt or innocence; admission of guilt is a requirement for being offered this voluntary diversion from criminal charges. The youth will then be assigned a date to appear in Teen Court to take responsibility for his/her actions before an adult judge and a trained jury of their peers. Once the hearing is complete the Teen Court staff immediately meets with the youth and their family to explain the jury's requirements and answer any questions they may have. Once the requirements are met the case is closed. If the youth does not successfully complete the program, a detailed letter is sent to the referral source where other ways to address the harms done may be put in place.

Sheriff Bill Beam supports the Teen Court program and is encouraging his deputies to utilize its services when dealing with juvenile offenders. The program was initiated by The Mediation Center of the Southern Piedmont, approved by Judge Larry Wilson, and funded by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. Lincoln County Clerk of Court Fred Hatley is allowing Teen Court to take place in the Lincoln County Courthouse once it reopens. Magistrates Joey Wagoner and Paige Beal have volunteered to participate as judges for the launch of the program in Lincoln County. The first session of Teen Court in Lincoln County was held on January 11, 2021. However, future sessions will be held on the 3rd Tuesday of the month between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

For more information or to find out how to volunteer contact Laura Mitchell (Teen Court Coordinator) at 704-686-9576 or

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