Parents Of 6-year-old Alleged School Shooter In Virginia May Be Charged

It’s unlikely that the 6-year-old kid who is accused of shooting his teacher in Virginia on Friday will face charges, but depending on how the gun was handled, his parents may be held legally liable.

Even though it is theoretically conceivable under Virginia law to prosecute a 6-year-old child with a crime, legal experts indicated that doing so would be extremely difficult and it is highly doubtful that any prosecutors would even attempt it. Virginia law prohibits trying 6-year-olds as adults.

Furthermore, if found guilty, a 6-year-old is too young to be placed in the Department of Juvenile Justice’s custody. Additionally, a common law principle known as the “infancy defense” stipulates that children under the age of seven cannot be charged with a crime because they lack the mental capacity to develop criminal intent.

According to Andrew Block, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law who served as the director of Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice from 2014 to 2019, a judge would also have to determine that the child was competent to stand trial, which means that he could understand the legal proceedings against him and participate in his own defense. Block asserted that it is “almost impossible to conceive of a 6-year-old being judged competent to stand trial.”

In situations where a child’s behavior or condition presents or results in a serious threat to the child’s well-being and physical safety, prosecutors may file a “Child in Need of Services” petition, according to Julie E. McConnell, a law professor at the University of Richmond who has worked on youth justice cases for more than 25 years.

The judge would then have a variety of options, such as ordering services like counseling or anger management; permitting the child to remain with his parents under certain restrictions; ordering the parents to take part in programs or cooperate in treatment; or transferring custody of the child to a family member, child welfare agency, or a local social services agency.

According to Newport News police Chief Steve Drew, the student’s mother legally bought the 9mm handgun used in the incident and kept it at the family’s residence.

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