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Can a juvenile be arrested in Virginia for making threats?

As another school year is set to begin, it is important for people under the age of 18 to have a grasp of the juvenile law system and how certain allegations can impact their lives. For example, a juvenile might not be aware that making a verbal or physical threat can result in criminal charges. Even if such a threat is made in jest or is done without the person really meaning it, there can be charges and, if convicted, harsh penalties that accompany it. This is true for physical and verbal threats.

The law states that a threat occurs when there is communication saying that one person will injure or kill another person or a member of that person's family. Prosecutors must also show that this communication is sufficient to stoke reasonable fear in the other person that the threat might actually be carried out. A written threat will result in charges of a Class 6 felony. If there is a conviction, the juvenile can be imprisoned for a minimum of one year and up to five years. Alternatively, he or she may be jailed for up to one year with a fine of up to $2,500. A threat made on school grounds, at an event sponsored by the school, or on a school bus will be classified as a Class 6 felony even if the person who was targeted never receives the threat.

An oral threat to kill or commit bodily injury to a school employee on school property, at an activity sponsored by the school, or on a school bus will result in the issuer of the threat being charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class 1 misdemeanor can lead to jail for up to 12 months with a fine of up to $2,500. A weapon does not have to be displayed to warrant this charge, provided the person is fearful that the threat could be carried out. The age of the issuer of the threat and if he or she is disabled will be considered under this charge.

It is unlawful to issue threats in any situation, and juveniles must be aware that they can face criminal charges and penalties if they do so. When a juvenile is charged with these acts, it is imperative that they understand the potential penalties they face and take steps to formulate a strong defense. A conviction can negatively affect these young individuals' lives in the short- and long-term. Speaking to an attorney experienced in helping clients charged with juvenile crimes is thus oftentimes essential.

Source: virginiarules.com, "Threats/Verbal/Physical," accessed on Aug. 21, 2017

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