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New Missouri Assault Law and School Children

Impact of Missouri Assault Law on School Children

There has been much discussion about the new criminal code (effective January 1, 2017) in the state of Missouri. Especially the portions of the Missouri assault statute that might relate to school children. Near the end of 2016, a school in the St. Louis area issued warnings that fighting and bullying in school could now lead to felony assault charges under the new criminal code. However, this is a misconception. In fact, under the new code it could be argued that school children are less likely to receive a felony charge for such behavior.

The Pre-2017 Missouri Assault Law

Before 2017, there were four main categories of assault, three of which were felonies. The felonies were 1st degree, 2nd degree, and Assault on School property. The misdemeanor was 3rd degree assault.

Assault on School Property (Felony) was defined as follows

3rd Degree Assault was defined as follows:

New Missouri Assault Law

Within the new code there are still four main categories of assault, three of which are felonies. The felonies are 1st degree, 2nd degree, and 3rd degree assault. The misdemeanor is 4th degree assault.

Assault on School Property was essentially changed to the new 3rd Degree Assault. The new definition is defined as follows:

The old 3rd degree assault was essentially moved to the new 4th degree assault and remains a misdemeanor.

How the Assault Changes Impact Missouri School Children

As mentioned above, the organization and titles of the new laws are the biggest differences in regards to school children and assault in Missouri. Prosecutors have always had the ability to charge school kids with a felony for knowingly causing physical injury on school grounds. Some incorrectly assume that the new felony 3rd degree assault holds the same definition of the old misdemeanor 3rd degree assault. Perhaps this is because they looked no deeper than the title of the law. Further, the definition of physical injury has been narrowed to not include physical pain or illness. This seems like it will decrease the amount of times an assault reaches the felony threshold.

Additionally, there are certain laws in Missouri that require schools to report certain types of crimes to law enforcement. One law used to require 3rd degree misdemeanor assault to be reported. That specific law was not amended to include the new 4th degree assault. This is another reason the new law may lead to fewer student felonies. Ultimately, when charges are reported, it is up to prosecutors to determine whether an incident was a misdemeanor or a felony. This turns on another aspect of criminal defense, which is to mitigate charges if the facts don’t enable one to have the case dismissed.

Lastly, while still a very concerning experience, it should be noted that charges against children under 17 years of age will be brought in juvenile court where a determination will be made if the child should be charged as an adult.

What to Do if Facing Criminal Charges or Discipline?

At Henderson & Waterkotte, P.C. our lawyers handle school discipline, misdemeanor assault, felony assault, and juvenile cases. It is important to know your or your child’s rights in these instances. Call a H|W attorney as soon as any assault situation arises so that we can discuss your legal options. A lawyer is available 24/7 to speak with you.