In the aftermath of Columbine, Virginia Tech, and most recently Parkland, states and school boards have in the name of protecting their students put in place a series of laws and policies that allow the police to intervene and even charge students as soon as threats become known. These threats include threats mad via computer, text messaging, cellphone and other electronic means.
The criminalization of threats in Florida are covered by a variety of statutes, for example:
- A written threat to kill bodily injure another can be sent by letter, inscribed communication or electronic communication is a 2° Felony, punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison. Fla. Stat. § 836.10.
- Cyberstalking is a course of conduct communicated via electronic means directed to cause substantial emotional distress that as a 1° Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail. Fla. Stat. § 784.048(2).
- If the target of the Cyberstalking is less than 16 years old, then the offense is a 3° Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison. Fla. Stat. §784.084(%)
- Aggravated Cyberstalking includes the use of a credible threat that places anther in fear for their safety is a 3° Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison. Fla. Stat. § 784.089(3).
With these statutes criminalizing threats electronic threats, how far can the authorities go in the investigation of a student who is suspected of making such a threat?
The Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Taracks & Associates, are well aware of the cooperation between school authorities and law enforcement in investigation of threats against students.
Most parents and students either haven’t read or don’t realize the overarching authority that schools possess via statutes or even the school’s Code of Student Conduct which is required by Fla. Stat. §1006.07(2). The Code of Student Conduct will also likely have a section dedicated to technology based upon the explosion of technology have a section dedicated to the appropriate and more importantly, the inappropriate uses of technology including computers and cell phones.
The Code of Student Conduct will also have written standards that not only direct when and where personal electronic devices can be used on property but also when and how the school personnel can conduct a student’s possessions (including cellphone and computer). Further most schools grant the authority to school personnel to search a backpack, purse and other items if the student refused to reveal the contents.
Some schools have gone so far as stating in the student handbook that the lockers on the school grounds continue to be the property of the school, and therefore the school can search without notice and without reasonable suspicion of a law violation.
For the investigation of threats and other crimes, Fla. Stat. § 1006.09(9) grants to a principal or other designated school employee the authority upon a reasonable suspicion that an illegal item is contained by a student in a locker or other storage area, the authority to search that location. This includes the physical search or the use of a trained K-9 dog, and even metal detectors. Since cellphones are considered personal property, they are also subject to being searched by the authorities.
So, if your child is suspected of misusing technology on school property or is suspected of making threats by electronic means, it is important to understand not only the rights of your child, but your rights of a parent of a child who is being investigated.
The Tampa Criminal Defense Attorneys at Taracks & Associates, are used to dealing with the authorities on school premises, whether they be school resource officers, teachers or administrators. We know that a student doesn’t have the same right of privacy at a school, than an adult has in a car, bus or home.
We understand that the police can question your child at school without notifying you, but if you are present you can refuse to allow your child to speak with the authorities until your child consults with an attorney. It is important to also remember that your child has the same Miranda Rights as an adult, that is, your child must be advised of the right to have an attorney present while in custody and being questioned.
So, if your child is suspected of any wrongdoing, particularly regarding electronic threats of bodily harm call one of the Experienced Tampa Defense Attorneys today for a Free Consultation today at 813-281-2897.
We understand that any investigation of your child will not only be upsetting and full of angst, but the seriousness that not only can impact what school your child will continue to attend, but also can impact your child’s entire future. So, if you have questions call to schedule an appointment so that we can chart a course of handling these serious allegations that will protect your child and his future.