The school shootings that have been regularly making headlines across the United States are nothing but tragic. However, some people have had a different response than to mourn the loss of school-aged children – instead, they have been making copycat threats to schools. In the twelve days following the Parkland, Florida shooting on Valentine’s Day, about 638 threats had been reported, 32 of which were made to Pennsylvania schools. After three weeks, that count had increased to more than 750.
Many of these threats are coming from high school students trying to pull stunts or pranks on the school. Not only are such stunts not funny, however, but they are also against the law in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, making terroristic threats is a serious criminal offense.
Standing in the middle of a crowded mall and screaming that is a bomb would be considered a terroristic threat if the intention is to cause terror and cause people to run – even if you knew there was never actually a bomb. The intention does not have to be to carry out the threat and you do not even need to be able to carry out the threat. The key to this offense is intentionally or recklessly causing terror by making threats.
When a student calls in a school shooting threat, they may think they cannot get in trouble if they do not have access to any weapons or have the intention of ever shooting anyone. However, many school officials will call for the evacuation of a school or the cancellation of school when a threat is made. This can be enough for the student who made the threats to be arrested and charged with terroristic threats. In fact, several students have been arrested across the U.S. for this reason.
Making a terroristic threat is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. If a building is evacuated or normal operations of a school or business are interrupted as a result of the threat, the offense can be charged as a third-degree felony. These are extremely serious charges. Every student should be aware of the possible consequences of making such threats and if your child is arrested, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Many young people do not fully realize the possible consequences of their actions. However, ignorance is not a defense and they can still face harsh penalties if they are charged with a crime. Our firm knows how to defend against such charges and represents clients of all ages. Please call the Skinner Law Firm at 610-436-1410 or contact us online to learn about how we can help you.