Perry County Judge Dean Wilson wants students to know the effects and consequences of drinking and driving, which is why each year right before prom season he takes his court off-site to a local high school.
More than 200 senior government students on April 25 from five area high schools and criminal justice students from Hocking College witnessed real trial court proceedings at New Lexington High School.
Judge Wilson started the program 11 years ago and all but one case focused on alcohol related offenses.
"Since implementing this program, we've never had any alcohol related offenses out of any of the schools during prom," Judge Wilson said.
This year, the jury trial centered on defendant David Wise who was charged with being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Wise said he agreed to hold his case at the high school so the students could learn from his mistakes.
"I myself made a mistake umpteen years ago. Before my graduation I did myself get picked up for a DUI and I knew it was a bad, bad decision of mine. And to help these kids out - to know not to do it - I kind of wanted to say not to go out and do the same stupid thing I did," Wise said.
"Since this is a case about drinking and then having a car it's important because on prom night sometimes kids get a little out of control and they want to drink, and so this is kind of an eye-opener, like, you can get in trouble or you can seriously hurt somebody if you were to drink while driving," student Grace Purkey said.
Students said seeing the jury trial in person helps them understand the process.
"It's been pretty interesting. I've never actually seen a court case. It's actually a lot different than what you'd expect on TV - clears up how it actually is - makes it more real," student Sullivan Gwinn said.
Judge Wilson said it's a good civics education program and encourages other judges to give it a try.
"It's so easy for judges to become accustomed and comfortable sitting in a courtroom someplace. If you bring it out to the school itself, I think it's an important ingredient and basically helping the students evolve into adults," Judge Wilson said.
Judge Wilson said around 10 area students ended up going into law school due to the off-site court program.
The Ohio Supreme Court justices also travel to different counties across the state twice a year for their Off-Site Court Program. Background information and a video illustrating the program, including footage from past Off-Site Court sessions, are available on the Supreme Court Web site.