Hostetler Proposes Teen Court
On Feb. 9 Youth Probation Officer Bryan Hostetler addressed the Wetzel County Commission about the institution of a Teen Court program. Hostetler said Tyler County put such a program together for teenagers aged 12-18 and the program has proved to be favorable and successful. He explained the purpose of the program is to allow youthful offenders the opportunity to resolve misdemeanor offenses without going to court, and to also allow student volunteers to sit as the jury and learn about the court system.
Hostetler noted that currently Wetzel County has a mediation program, but stated something like Teen Court is far more effective, particularly because the offenders are judged by their peers.
Teen Court is specifically designed for first-time offenders of misdemeanor crimes. During the Teen Court trials, a licensed attorney sits in as the judge as cases are presented. Then a jury of peers gives the punishment which usually consists of sentencing the defendant to going to school and an allotted number of community service hours. Hostetler underlined that individuals go through Teen Court only once. Any future charges result in that defendant appearing before a real judge. Teen Court is started with the help of a grant, but in order to sustain the program, some sort of revenue needs to be generated and that fee has to be approved by the county commission. Hostetler provided the commission with an order recommending a $5 ticket fee to every offender who participates in the program.
At the commission’s next meeting held Feb. 15 the commission approved and adopted the order pertaining to the $5 Teen Court fee after it was confirmed West Virginia State Code 49-5-13(d) was amended to authorize counties to accept a mandatory fee when a county elects to institute a Teen Court program to help fund that program.