Monday, November 2, 2009

Candy Crimes

The Advocate reported that two eleven year old boys were approached on Halloween by three other young boys. One of the three approaching boys, age twelve, “carried a BB-gun and told the two 11-year-olds to give up their candy.” The eleven year olds did not have any candy, and a twelve year old shot one eleven year old in the back and missed hitting another. The child with the BB-gun was charged with second-degree assault, criminal attempt at first-degree robbery, possession of a facsimile firearm and two counts of risk of injury to a minor.

By no means do I condone this child's behavior. What he did was wrong and should be punished. That being said, apart from the fact that a twelve year old has been charged with several felonies (crimes for which one can serve more than a year in jail), the following thoughts occur to me.

The only definitions of second degree assault that could apply to this child would require that he: (1) With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person; or . . . (3) he recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument… Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-60.

There’s an enhancement for the same offense with a firearm, but you have to meet one of these definitions first. So which one applies? Can you intend serious physical injury with a BB-gun? My friend’s brother hit me in the foot with a BB-gun once when I was about this age. It stung a little, but it certainly didn't cause serious physical injury. I know BBs can cause serious harm to one's eye, but there's no indication that this is specifically relevant here. Is a BB-gun a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument? Is a BB-gun hit to the back a serious physical injury?

And first degree attempted robbery requires (in relevant part) that during an attempted robbery, the person: (1) Causes serious physical injury…; or (2) is armed with a deadly weapon; or (3) uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument; or (4) displays or threatens the use of what he represents by his words or conduct to be a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm… Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-134.

Again, is a BB-gun a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument? Is it a “firearm?”

And what exactly is involved in the crime of “possession of a facsimile firearm?” Are you guilty if you own a water gun? What about a stick shaped like a gun that your kid uses for "cops and robbers?"

Perhaps most surprising is that a twelve year old has been charged with “risk of injury to a minor.” Can a twelve year old "risk injury" to an eleven year old? There are good and important anti-bullying measures being pursued in and out of schools, but are felony charges the right answer for punishment of pre-teens? Felony records can be an impediment to success (jobs, home ownership, etc.) for the rest of one's life.

I don't have the answers, but I certainly have questions. I'd welcome your input.


Streets of Stamford said...

Candy theft is a gateway crime. Today's candy thief is tomorrow's Bernie Madoff.

Anonymous said...

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye...

Anonymous said...

Must not be a "Malloy" if he was charged and has any chance of doing time.