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They Broke the Law-You Be the Judge: True Cases of Teen Crime


Teens often hear about other teens who get into trouble with the law. But they’re seldom asked what they think should happen next and why. A unique introduction to the juvenile justice system, They Broke the Law—You Be the Judge: True Cases of Teen Crime invites teens to preside over a variety of real-life cases.

They meet Adam, who makes a threat in school; Erica, who assaults another student and uses marijuana; and more young people who commit crimes and are caught. Like a ...

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Teens often hear about other teens who get into trouble with the law. But they’re seldom asked what they think should happen next and why. A unique introduction to the juvenile justice system, They Broke the Law—You Be the Judge: True Cases of Teen Crime invites teens to preside over a variety of real-life cases.

They meet Adam, who makes a threat in school; Erica, who assaults another student and uses marijuana; and more young people who commit crimes and are caught. Like a judge, readers learn each teen’s background, the relevant facts, and the sentencing options available. After deciding on a sentence, they find out what really happened—and where each offender is today.

Along the way, readers learn Judge Jacobs’ concerns about each case, reflect on probing questions, and discover that they can’t jump to conclusions. Teens (and teachers) who want more can find role-playing ideas and scenarios related to the stories available as free downloads here on the Free Spirit Web site.

Thought-provoking and eye-opening, this book is for all teens who want to know more about the juvenile justice system and the laws that pertain to them and their peers.

Letters from and interviews with twenty-one children and teenagers who broke the law reveal what it is like to be arrested, attend legal proceedings, and be held accountable for one's actions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A refreshing and completely unique resource.”—Youthworker

“Unusual and thought-provoking . . . with the proliferation of courtroom shows on television, this book gives young people a more realistic look at the legal system designed for them.”—School Library Journal

“An excellent introduction of how juvenile justice works...great resource for classroom and group discussions.”—Booklist

 “Very relevant...will strike a chord with adolescent readers.”—Children’s Literature

 “Ideal for class discussion.... An excellent resource for mock trial preparation.”—Voice of Youth Advocates

ALA/YALSA “Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults”, Selected

ForeWord Book of the Year Awards Finalist, ForeWord Magazine

Children's Literature
This very relevant and issue oriented book will strike a chord with adolescent readers. They read about 21 different real-life cases about teens who broke the law. The reader then weighs the facts presented and decides what is right for the law-breaker, what is fair and what is best for the entire community as a whole. Readers then discover the real outcome of each case. They learn how and why the judge ruled as he or she did and what the judge considers before making a ruling in each case. They also learn sentencing options that were available to the judge and the background of each perpetrator. "Did You Know" facts are interesting and can be found throughout the book in blue boxes. They contain statistics such as, "nine persons under age 19 are killed everyday by firearms" and "over 70% of the total homicides, suicides and gun related deaths occur among American children." Another fascinating fact reveals, "25% of students ages 9 to 12 report they have been offered, sold or have been given an illegal drug." The end notes of this book are especially useful and contain a glossary of legal terms, table of contents, suggestions for use, books and magazine resources, crisis hot-lines and organizations and web sites to find further information. This book is a very valuable resource for many groups including school guidance counselors and health and social workers. 2003, Free Spirit Publishing, Ages 9 to 12.
— Sue Reichard
Teachers and students looking for a great primer on criminal law should look no further than this book. Jacobs, a lawyer and juvenile court judge, gives readers a comprehensive overview of the juvenile court system using an engaging writing style and a presentation format that is both entertaining and educational. He presents profiles of juveniles who have committed crimes ranging from stealing Christmas presents to possession of narcotics and weapons. Each profile begins with the background of the person being presented. Next, the scenario of criminal activity is given, including an overview of the crime and an account of the events that took place from the time of the arrest to the court appearance. Jacobs defines terms such as burglary, theft, and arraignment using graphic boxes that engage the reader's attention. The next element presented—sentencing possibilities—is joined by a series of questions written at the YA level to encourage discussion about each juvenile's criminal activity and the role that the defendant's life choices and circumstances may play in the judge's decision. Either preceding or following Jacobs' actual decision are letters highlighted in large graphics from each defendant describing his/her efforts to "make amends." Finally, the profile concludes with a "where are they now" segment. The layout makes this a perfect text for an Introduction to Criminal Law course for young people. The discussion questions encourage group participation, and the highlighted law vocabulary could be extracted easily and used for testing purposes. Jacobs' work is highly recommended as a classroom text for a current issues or sociology-based class at the middleschool level and above. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Free Spirit, 212p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 12 to 18.
—Tom Adamich
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Written by a juvenile court judge, this book details 21 cases ranging from truancy to auto theft. Following a description of events leading up to and including the crime itself, readers are given background about the individual, sentencing options, and questions to consider before sentencing, and then asked to make a decision about the case. Jacobs then explains his decision, asks for responses to it, and tells what later happened to the individual. Each case also includes a letter written by the teenager to Judge Jacobs. With the proliferation of courtroom shows on television, this book gives young people a more realistic look at the legal system designed for them. The author's compassion for those who appeared before him will also be eye-opening for many young people. "There may be an occasional detour, but more often than not, they get back on track. It's inspiring to see-." That, above all, will teach young people an important lesson. An unusual and thought-provoking treatment.-Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781575421346
  • Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/15/2003
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 253,815
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas a. Jacobs, J.D., was an Arizona Assistant Attorney general from 1972–1985, where he practiced criminal and child welfare law. He was appointed to the Maricopa County Superior Court in 1985 where he served as a judge pro tem and commissioner in the juvenile and family courts until his retirement in 2008. He also taught juvenile law for ten years as an adjunct professor at the Arizona State University School of Social Work. He continues to write for teens, lawyers, and judges. His recent articles on teens and the law have been published in The New York Times and New York ParentGuide. His previous books include What Are My Rights? and Teens Take It to Court. Judge Jacobs also maintains the popular Web site “Ask the Judge: Answers for Teens About the law” at
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Table of Contents

Introduction viii
A Brief Look at the Juvenile Justice System 1
How to Use This Book 4
Using Role Plays 8
Glossary of Legal and Court Terms Used in the Book 10
Twenty-one True Cases of Teen Crime
Adam, 15: a threat made in school 18
Adelina, 13: robbing a girl 27
Andrew, 17: a fight with a brother 37
Ashley, 14: caught with a bag of marijuana 46
Brandon, 14: breaking into a home 55
Brianne, 17: a stolen car, a stolen credit card, and forgery 64
Carla, 15: a fight with mom 74
Charles, 16: cocaine and a gun 83
Erica, 14: assault and possessing a marijuana pipe 92
Jennifer, 13: stolen Christmas presents 101
Jerry, 15: home break-in and theft 110
Joshua, 15: cutting school 118
Marcus, 14: stealing a telephone cord 126
Natalie, 14: caught with beer at a party 133
Olivia, 14: a stolen car 141
Philip, 9: assault against his mother 151
Ronald, 16: caught with beer and wine in a car 160
Samantha, 14: unpaid cab fare and lying to police 167
Sean, 16: a pipe bomb in a bedroom drawer 176
Starlett, 14: cutting school and violation of probation 184
Tanya, 14: a stolen pregnancy test kit 193
Closing Arguments 202
Resources 203
Index 209
About the Author 213
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2008

    Judges in the making

    I have used this book with juveniles I work with on probation. It is neat to see them problem solve the cases and how many times they would actually punish the crime much harder than what the judge actually decided. This book creates great discussions and has a lot of value in the therapeutic groups for problem solving. I highly recommend this book to use with teens in all different ways.

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