Under certain circumstances, teenaged minors in Mississippi may receive punishments typically handed down to adult offenders. As reported by the Sun Herald News, five middle school students may face felony charges in Jackson County after their arrest for allegedly making shooting threats.
All of the arrested students are thirteen–year–olds. They made their alleged threats through Facebook and by word of mouth. According to comments made by the Jackson County School District and Sheriff, threats made against schools bring heavy consequences.
The penalty could be 10 years jail time
In Mississippi, the shooting threats made by the five students are felonies. The young offenders might not be able to provide a defense that they had neither the capability nor the intent to carry out any of their alleged threats. Because they may face felony charges, the penalty can be as much as 10 years imprisonment
New senate bill treats threats of bodily harm as a felony in Mississippi
As reported by the Columbus and Starkville Dispatch, the recently passed Senate Bill 2141 makes it a felony offense to threaten anyone with bodily harm and with the intent to intimidate part of the population. Also known as the “Mississippi Terroristic Threats Law,” the bill may allow juveniles making such threats to stand trial for adult felony offenses through the circuit court system.
There is a degree of discretion built into the new law that enables authorities to decide whether to try youthful offenders as juveniles or if they should face adult felony charges. In the case of the five arrested thirteen-year-olds, the intimidated “part of the population” may refer to the student body at the middle school the offenders attended. One of the considerations in assessing the nature of the charges is whether the alleged threat of bodily harm affects a group of individuals who would otherwise feel safe within the walls of a school or other building.
Parents of other students attending the school reported their children were “terrified” to return to classes after the five offenders made the alleged shooting threats. It may require a vigorous defense to reduce the charges to a level that would place the young offenders under the jurisdiction of Mississippi’s youth court system, rather than facing trial as adults.