Seattle Youth Traffic Court

Seattle Youth Traffic Court provides eligible teen drivers charged with a traffic violation the opportunity to keep a clean driving record. Participants will appear before their peers who act as judges, jurors, defense attorneys and prosecutors. A jury of their peers will determine an appropriate sentence.

Seattle Youth Traffic Court is a partnership between Seattle Municipal Court, Seattle University School of Law, Garfield High School, and Seattle Police Department.

Program Contacts

Seattle Municipal Court

Presiding Judge Karen Donohue, Co-Director
Judge Adam Eisenberg, Co-Director

Phone: (206) 733-9391
Email: youthcourt@seattle.gov

Seattle University School of Law

Margaret Fisher, Co-Director
Email: fisherm2@seattleu.edu

How to Participate

Eligibility

  • You, the teen driver, must be at least 16 years old and under 18 years old at time of violation.
  • Violation occurred within the City of Seattle and was issued by Seattle Police Department.
  • You admit that you committed the charged traffic violation.
  • Your parents agree that the case can be heard in Seattle Youth Traffic Court.
  • You have no previous criminal or traffic convictions on your record and have not previously participated in a youth court.

Application Process

  • Potential program participants will receive a letter from the court with a program application.
  • If you meet the above eligibility requirements and did not receive an application, contact us: (206) 733-9391, youthcourt@seattle.gov.
  • Submit the application along with signed release and a $25 program fee by the deadline.
  • You will receive a letter with information on your hearing date and location. Your hearing will likely be scheduled a few months out.

Prior to Your Youth Court Hearing

  • You will be contacted by a law student to remind you of your hearing date and to help you prepare.
  • Prepare to talk about the violation in court and practice your responses to potential questions you may be asked by the attorneys or judge(s).

After Your Youth Court Hearing

  • Accept the sentence decided by the jury.
  • Complete the terms of your sentence within the deadline set by the jury.
  • Serve as a Youth Court juror on one or more future cases.
  • Share with your friends and family what you learned from participating in Youth Court.

Successful Program Completion

  • The violation will be dismissed and will not appear on your driving record.
  • You will have a better understanding of how your actions impact others in your community.
  • You will learn more about the court and court process and civic responsibility.
  • You will learn how to be a better driver, making the roads safer for everyone.

Program Benefits

Both volunteers and participants learn firsthand how our country's judicial system works and their role in the system. National studies indicate that teens who are sentenced in youth courts are less likely to make the same mistake in the future, making the roads safer for all drivers. As part of their court sentence, teen drivers may be required to complete community service hours, write an essay on the dangers resulting from their violation, or write a letter of apology to those impacted by the violation.

Program Partnership Roles

The Seattle Youth Traffic Court partnership began in 2012 and heard its first cases in March 2012.

Seattle Municipal Court: Once a teen driver receives a ticket, the court will review the infraction and their driving history to determine whether they qualify for participation in Youth Traffic Court. Qualified participants will receive a letter and application from the court. Seattle Youth Traffic Court hearings are held at Seattle Municipal Court on a monthly basis (except for July and August).

Seattle University School of Law: The School of Law manages the Youth Traffic Court cases once a participant enters the program. Law school staff and students mentor and train the high school student volunteers who serve as judges, prosecutors, jurors, bailiffs, and defense attorneys during the hearings.

Garfield High School: Garfield High School students serve as jurors, judges, attorneys, and bailiffs during Seattle Youth Traffic Court hearings. Students work under the supervision of a high school teacher, who works closely with Seattle University School of Law, Seattle Municipal Court and Seattle Police Department.

Seattle Police Department: Officers help train student volunteers and testify during Seattle Youth Traffic Court hearings.

Seattle Youth Traffic Court is a member of the Washington Association of Youth Courts. There are over 1,400 youth courts nationally in which young people are sentenced by their peers for traffic, juvenile offenses, truancy, and school rule violations. Seattle Youth Traffic Court is the first traffic court in which law student mentors train the high school student volunteers and manage the court process.

Additional Resources

Washington State Association of Youth Courts

National Association of Youth Courts

Global Youth Justice

Seattle University Youth Initiative