School shooting of teacher- Fairfax lawyer on VA mom’s indictment
School shooting of Newport News teacher by six year old- Am I at risk of criminal prosecution if my child commits a Virginia crime?
School shooting incidents by juveniles get coupled with questions of motive (if the incident happened), why the child had access to a firearm, and whether the shooter is too young to merit being prosecuted in the first place. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that the Newport News prosecutor’s office recently obtained an indictment against the mother of a mentally and physically handicapped six year old Virginia student, due to his having appeared in school earlier this years and shot his teacher (fortunately not fatally). The shooter is not being prosecuted. Why is the child’s mother being prosecuted when she apparently never put her son up to such a violent action, and apparently very much regrets that this incident date deviated from the common practice of one of the child’s parents accompanying him to school that day?
Beware Virginia’s felony statutes for parents’ reckless actions that lead to violence by their children
Virginia is among the more hospitable places for those wanting to exercise their Second Amendment rights with firearms. However, Virginia law also for a long time has placed criminal legal liability on parents who are not sufficiently careful about their minor children’s use of those weapons. The mother in the Newport News school shooting case got indicted under the Virginia felony statute providing that: “Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 18 whose willful act or omission in the care of such child was so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life is guilty of a Class 6 felony,” which is jailable up to five years in prison. Virginia Code § 18.2-371.1(B). I have posted the felony docket for this case here, if you wish to track the developments in this Virginia prosecution.
Watch out about leaving loaded handguns accessible to younger minors in Virginia, and to authorizing anyone not yet a teenager to use a firearm
In this Virginia school shooting case, the child’s mother also has been indicted for the class one misdemeanor (jailable up to one year in jail) providing that: “A. It shall be unlawful for any person to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of fourteen. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor; B. It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to authorize a child under the age of twelve to use a firearm except when the child is under the supervision of an adult. Any person violating this subsection shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For purposes of this subsection, “adult” shall mean a parent, guardian, person standing in loco parentis to the child or a person twenty-one years or over who has the permission of the parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis to supervise the child in the use of a firearm.” Virginia Code § 18.2-56.2
If this mother kept the firearm unloaded and reasonably inaccessible to her child, why is she being prosecuted?
This defendant’s lawyer apparently has asserted that the handgun used by the child in this Virginia incident was kept unloaded at home and at a significant height to reduce the risk that this six year old child would have accessed it. A large percentage of Virginia criminal suspects give up (or do not know) their right to remain silent, and it is not clear at this point whether this parent indicated worse to the police, whether the prosecutor’s office is simply pursuing an unwise prosecution to at least show some effort to address this school shooting, or whether anything else is causing this prosecution to proceed forward.
If your minor child causes a school shooting or other injury with your firearm in Virginia, check with a qualified criminal lawyer about your liability risk
Any parent who learns their minor child has caused a school shooting of someone is going to be feeling out of sorts, at the very least. Our right to remain silent with the police, and the likely poor emotional state of a parent who learns of such news, makes it all the more vital to obtain a qualified criminal lawyer for your child if such a tragedy ever takes place, and for yourself and your child’s remaining parent after such a violent event. Do not expect to be able to talk your way out of this nor any other Virginia criminal investigation on your own.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz has successfully defended hundreds of Virginia criminal defendants prosecuted for alleged DUI, felony and misdemeanor offenses. If you become a Virginia criminal defendant, call Jon Katz’s staff at 703-383-110o for your free confidential in-person consultation with Jon about your court-pending case.