Court of their peers serves justice for young drivers

BOTHELL — Bothell Municipal Court Judge Michelle Gehlsen isn’t convinced the few minutes she spends with new drivers facing their first traffic ticket is enough time to hammer home the dangers of speeding or texting behind the wheel. Teenagers may need a little more encouragement to think about their responsibilities, even if the lecture is coming from someone in a black robe.

Gehlsen has helped the city launch a new youth court with the goal of cutting down on the number of repeat traffic offenders and maybe saving lives. Traffic accidents remain the No. 1 killer of young people, Gehlsen said.

The youth court is open to 16- and 17-year-old first-time traffic offenders. To opt into the court, offenders must admit their guilt. Yet they are given the chance to explain the circumstances in a triallike setting. The court is led by high school students, who serve as the judge, attorneys and jury.

The court, supervised by an adult, will be held once a month at the Bothell Municipal Court. The offenders can have the infraction dropped from their record once they complete the program. If they don’t meet the requirements, they’ll be convicted.

Gehlsen said the youth court focuses on restorative justice, meaning sentences will be geared toward getting the teens to think about the effects of poor driving, rather than making the ticket go away with the swipe of a debit card.

“We really want to help them understand their responsibilities when they’re driving,” she said.

Participants may be required to write letters, do community service or take classes, such as defensive driving or a time-management course if they were speeding because they were late.

“It’s not just about punishment, but also about changing behavior,” the judge said. As part of the project, Gehlsen partnered with University of Washington-Bothell Professor Camille Walsh and some of her legal studies students.

Early on the college students researched youth court models and their effect on communities. The college students also are mentoring and training the Bothell High School and Secondary Academy for Success students who have volunteered to staff the peer court.

The partnership has been a great opportunity for college students who are considering careers in law, Walsh said.

“I think it’s a great chance to help train future leaders,” Gehlsen said.

Diana Hefley: 425-3393463; hefley@heraldnet. com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Patrick Kunz speaks during his sentencing on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett gymnastics coach who spied on students sentenced to 6 months

Patrick Kunz, 47, pleaded guilty to charges of voyuerism and possession of child pornography last month.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
Everett transgender mechanic alleges Boeing treated her ‘like a zoo animal’

For years, Boeing allowed toxicity “to fester and grow” at its Everett factory, according to Rachel Rasmussen, an employee from 1989 to 2024.

Monroe High School (Monroe School District)
Monroe High School teacher accused of sexual misconduct, put on leave

Few details were not available Thursday afternoon. Police were seeking information from the public.

After 10 months, police make arrest in fatal Everett shooting

Police believe Malik “Capone” Fulson killed Joseph Haderlie, 27, in April 2023 outside an apartment complex on Casino Road.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

Ryan Rafter appears in court for sentencing Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Man sentenced to life in prison for murder of Everett father

In April 2022, Ryan Rafter, 42, shot Christopher Buck, 29, to death after breaking in to his home to steal drugs.

Driver strikes, kills Marysville man who was crossing I-5 in Seattle

The man’s car had broken down near Mercer Street. Troopers reported that he was struck when he tried to cross the freeway.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Police: Darrington woman stabbed, buried 5-year-old daughter

The woman reportedly told investigators she was hearing voices before she killed her young daughter on Valentine’s Day.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.