Saturday, April 06, 2013

Always thinking like a public defender

Recently, there was a terribly frightening incident in MN where a 12 yr old called police to report a shooter at his school in New Prague. This call caused wide-spread panic, as would be expected. However, the report was fake. There was no shooter at the school, a fact that wasn't known until later, after parents had left work in terror to make sure their kids were safe and after police responded.

The kid ended up being arrested for the fake report. The news reported that he could be facing "serious charges." A discussion ensued in my office as to what, exactly, the kid could be charged with.

The initial thought was a Terroristic Threats charge, a felony. This covers threatening to kill someone and also covers saying that you are going to bomb a place or shoot up a place. Shoot up a place seems to fit this situation. But the nuance is that the charge applies if the defendant says HE is going to shoot up a place, not simply saying that someone is already shooting up the place. So that would not fit, then, since this kid didn't say he was going to do it personally. Just that it was happening.

After some discussion, we ended up concluding that the most likely charge would be a Falsely Reporting a Crime. That's a misdemeanor. Not "serious charges" like the news reported he would be facing.

Of course, I expect that he will likely be charged with something more serious given how much panic the false report called. But legally it seems, based on what we know of the facts from the local media (which in no way guarantees accuracy), there doesn't appear to be a fact pattern for anything more serious than Falsely Reporting a Crime.

As we were all discussing this, Golf joked, "Leave it to a bunch of public defenders to figure out how to get him off!"


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