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Traditionally, consequences for fighting in school were limited to a trip to the principal’s office and school-enforced punishments such as detention, suspension or – in the worst case – expulsion. However, violence is a growing problem in schools across the US, so many educators and law enforcement officials are cracking down on violence of all forms, frequently by imposing legal consequences for students caught fighting.
Recently, two schools in Colorado made headlines for prosecuting students caught fighting at school. At Elizabeth Middle School in Elizabeth, Colorado, a middle school student was a arrested and is facing assault charges after attacking another student in school. Arvada High School in Arvada, Colorado, a student’s mom stood up to a bully in the hallway outside a JV basketball game, attempting to break up a fight. The aggressor then came after the mother, beating her in her face and head, and knocking her into the steel doors of the gym. The student now faces third-degree assault charges.
You may think that these sound like extreme examples – and they are. However, the fact of the matter is that prosecution for school fights is a growing trend across our state, and the difference between a minor scuffle and a criminal act of assault isn’t as great as you might believe.
As mentioned above, many schools now involve law enforcement in episodes of school violence, resulting in criminal charges for the students – even when the students are very young. Moreover, in any incident in which students are 18 years of age or older, they will automatically be tried as an adults.
One recent example occurred in Oregon at a middle school when one student flashed a handgun. The involved students, 13 and 16 years old, were arrested and now face charges for disorderly conduct and, for the student who flashed the handgun, unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree assault, which are not just crimes but felony-level offenses.
Students prosecuted as adults for fighting in school can expect severe criminal consequences related to Colorado assault and battery charges. Depending on whether weapons of any form were involved (including ordinary objects used as weapons) and whether the other student was seriously injured, defendants could face misdemeanor or felony-level assault charges. This is punishable by lengthy prison sentences and hefty criminal fines.
Perhaps even more importantly, teens will be left with a criminal record of violent crime that has lasting consequences in nearly every aspect of life, including college admissions, student lending, regular lending, employment. and housing.
Even if they are tried as juveniles, teens may be imprisoned for some amount of time and face penalties such as criminal fines and community service. However, offenses committed as a juvenile are generally eligible for expunction, so offenders are not left with a criminal record so long as they take this important step.
The overall take-home message is that school violence of any form is quite serious. Students caught fighting or engaging in other forms of violent behavior may face legal repercussions. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the laws, and to make your school-age children aware of the potential legal consequences of their actions.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.