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Teen doing 102 mph draws attention to youth traffic courts

SEATTLE — Imagine this:

You’re pulled over on I-90 because you were speeding. REALLY speeding. Going 102 mph in a 70 mile an hour zone. You get a ticket, go to court and are sentenced to community service. The ticket is expunged from your record.

Sound like a fair deal?

That’s exactly what happened to one Issaquah 17-year-old, our news partners at the Seattle Times report. According to the Times, the student at Issaquah High School was tried at the Issaquah Traffic Court. A jury of his teen peers – with a municipal judge presiding – sentenced the teen.

Some said the sentence wasn’t fair, and he should have been tried the same as any other adult. Not by teens who don’t know the law.

National studies show teens who are sentenced in youth courts are less than half as likely to commit the same crime.

Seattle Municipal Court Judge Adam Eisenberg says listening to fellow teens has a much greater impact than listening to an aged judge.

"Listening to an adult lecture them is probably not a terribly effective way to help teens," Eisenberg told Q13 News. "What we find is the students are sometimes very critical of their former peers."

Seattle's first Youth Traffic Court accepts drivers at least 16 years old and not older than 18. The teen on trial must admit he or she committed the charged traffic violation, and the peer jury determines the appropriate sentence.

Eisenberg says others have found that giving teens a fine doesn't work because their parents pay for it. But standing in front of a peer jury is not an easy task.

"In order to enter the court, you have to admit you did it," Eisenberg says.

Dozens of youth courts operate around the state for minor traffic offenses.

Visit Seattle Municipal Court's website for more information on the local youth court practices.