The city of Suwanee's HOPE Court program was recognized recently as the Program of the Year award.
The Georgia Municipal Court Clerks' Council gives the Program of the Year award to municipal courts throughout Georgia making a difference.
According to a press release from the city, Suwanee's Municipal Court's HOPE Court program was selected for its education efforts for first time youth offenders and offering them a second chance at maintaining driving privileges.
In 2015, a Georgia law was changed to allow offenders under the age of 17 to potentially appear in front of a jury, rather than a judge in a municipal court, as the law stated prior. Suwanee Chief Judge Norman Cuadra thought that this type of trial would be detrimental to a youth with a minor violation, and began creating a way to retain jurisdiction over these cases – and the City of Suwanee’s HOPE Court was born
“It’s doesn’t take much for a young driver to have his license suspended,” said Judge Cuadra. “We want to help these kids who have made mistakes – like most teenagers do – and not have them face potentially life-altering consequences on a first-time minor offense.”
HOPE Court offers first-time offenders under the age of 21 who have committed lesser crimes like speeding, texting and driving, open container, shoplifting and drugs to plead guilty and receive a modified sentence, such as a fine, community service or attending the Teen Victim Impact Panel class at Gwinnett County Court. Upon completion, the incident is wiped from their records.
Over 750 youths have successfully completed the program.