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Lawmakers claim new law will not make school fights felonies

Missouri recently passed a new law that seemingly opened the door for minors to be prosecuted for felony charges if they get into a fight in school. Now, top prosecutors are speaking out to clarify that minors will not actually be in danger of facing those felony charges. This is welcome news for students and parents throughout the state, but still a troubling precedent to have laws on the books that can be interpreted in such a way.

Several weeks ago, two separate school districts made statements expressing that school fights can now result in felony charges for students. Various news outlets pounced on this surprising turn of events, including several outlets at the national level. Many parents and civil rights groups have expressed concerns that not only is a felony an extremely harsh punishment for the crime, it increases the likelihood of students in certain areas being funneled straight from school to prison. Most schools have internal policies that dictate how they respond to fighting. However, in certain circumstances, the school must report incidents to law enforcement, which can lead to criminal charges.

In the aftermath of scrutiny at both a local and national level, state and local prosecutors are speaking up to assure the public that the new laws are not intended to make felons out of those who are involved in a school fight. While it good to have this reassurance, the laws remain on the books. It remains to be seen how they will realistically affect sentencing.

Protecting minors from charges that can ruin the rest of their lives is extremely important. If you have been charged with a crime, you owe it to yourself to present the strongest defense you can. An experienced attorney will fight to protect your rights and see that you are treated fairly by the justice system.

Source: St Louis Post-Dispatch, "Prosecutors say new Missouri laws will not lead to felony charges for students," Kristen Taketa, Jan. 18, 2017

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