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Teens and Violence

Why should teens be concerned about violence?

Young people are disproportionately affected by violent crime. They commit a larger share of violent crimes and are more frequently the victims than those in other age groups.

  • 5,958 young people aged 10 to 24 were murdered in 2006 – an average of 16 each day.
  • Among 10- to 24-year-olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans, the second leading cause of death for Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders, and the third leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

According to the FBI, persons under the age of 25 accounted for 52 percent of those arrested for murder and 64.8 percent of those arrested for robbery in 2006. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 2006).

What can teens do about violence?

Because violence results from conflicts between people, it may be prevented by learning nonviolent ways to solve problems and control anger. Violence is never an acceptable form of behavior. Some steps you can take to avoid violence or injury are:

  1. Recognize situations or events likely to escalate into violence.

  2. Stop whatever you are doing and count backward from 10 to 0. This will help you think about your feelings before they get out of control.

  3. If you can't control your anger, get away. Take a time out.

  4. Think about your options and the consequences of your actions. For example, hitting someone could result in suspension from school or even criminal charges.

  5. If necessary, get help from a third party to resolve differences.

  6. Cool off. Make sure you are calm and then talk to the person.

  7. Listen carefully to the other person's opinion.

  8. Be assertive, not aggressive. Stand up for your ideals. Begin every sentence with “I.” For example: “I feel this way...” or “I don't like it when...”

  9. Make a commitment not to contribute to violence in any way. Do not bully, tease, or spread negative gossip about others. Respect others and value differences. Try to broaden your social circle to include others who are different from you.

  10. If you know someone is planning to harm someone else, report him or her. We may have heard childhood criticisms of tattling, but it is the most courageous thing you can do. Tell a trusted adult, such as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, or parent. If you are afraid and believe that telling will put you in danger or lead to retaliation, find a way to anonymously contact the authorities.

  11. Be willing to admit and be responsible for something you may have done wrong.

  12. Respond with your HEAD, not your fists, threats, or weapons.

Are there laws against violence in Virginia?

Yes. There are numerous laws related to violence in Virginia. Violent crimes range in seriousness from murder (defined as killing that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated) to simple assault (defined as an attempt or offer to do bodily injury with force and violence).

What are the consequences of violent acts?

Crimes are organized into two main classifications: felonies and misdemeanors.

A felony is a serious crime punishable by death or a term of imprisonment in a state or federal prison for at least one year and a possible fine.

A misdemeanor is a lesser crime punishable by local jail time of not more than one year and/or a possible fine. Some offenses may either be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime and the degree of the criminal act

Felonies are classified into categories called classes for the purpose of sentencing. Felony classifications are listed below in order of the seriousness of the punishment.

Class 1 felony: Death, if the person so convicted was 18 years of age or older at the time of the offense and is not determined to be mentally retarded, or imprisonment for life; and a possible fine of not more than $100,000. If the person was less than 18 years of age at the time of the offense, or is determined to be an individual with intellectual disability, the punishment is imprisonment for life and a fine of not more than $100,000.

Class 2 felony: Imprisonment for 20 years to life, and a possible fine of not more than $100,000.

Class 3 felony: Imprisonment for five years to 20 years, and a possible fine of not more than $100,000.

Class 4 felony: Imprisonment for two to 10 years, and a possible fine of not more than $100,000.

Class 5 felony: Imprisonment for one to 10 years or confinement in jail for not more than 12 months, and/or a possible fine of not more than $2,500.

Class 6 felony: Imprisonment for one to five years or confinement in jail for not more than 12 months, and/or a possible fine of not more than $2,500.

(Code of Virginia § 18.2-10)

Misdemeanors are classified for the purposes of sentencing. The four classes of misdemeanors are listed below in order of the severity of the punishment.

Class 1 misdemeanor: Confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and/or a possible fine of not more than $2,500.

Class 2 misdemeanor: Confinement in jail for not more than six months and/or a possible fine of not more than $1,000.

Class 3 misdemeanor: A fine of not more than $500.

Class 4 misdemeanor: A fine of not more than $250.

(Code of Virginia § 18.2-11)

Capital offenses

Some murders can be punishable by a sentence of death. These are known as capital offenses.

A capital offense is any criminal charge that is punishable by death, or “capital punishment.” Virginia is a capital punishment state. This means that offenders can be executed.

Examples of capital crimes include, but are not limited to, contract murder, murder of a law enforcement officer, murder by a prisoner, multiple murders, murder arising from a drug distribution crime, and murdering a child younger than 14 years old by a person 21 years or older. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-31)

Juveniles are not subject to the death penalty but can be imprisoned for life.

All other murder not defined as either capital murder or first-degree murder is second-degree murder, and is punishable by anywhere from five to 40 years in prison. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-32)

Murder

First degree murder is a Class 2 felony in Virginia. It is first degree murder to commit murder, other than capital murder, by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or in the commission of, or attempt to commit, arson, rape, forcible sodomy, inanimate or animate object sexual penetration, robbery, burglary, or abduction. All other murder is of the second degree. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-32)

Manslaughter

Manslaughter is also the killing of one human being by another but is not premeditated. Involuntary manslaughter is a killing that is unintentional, such as when the person is driving or operating a watercraft under the influence of drugs and alcohol. (Code of Virginia §§ 18.2-36.1 and 18.2-36.2)

Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that is intentional but not premeditated, such as a killing committed during mutual combat or a killing committed after being provoked by the victim. (Code of Virginia §§ 18.2-35 and 18.2-36)

Both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are punishable as Class 5 felonies.

Firearms

It is a felony to use or attempt to use any pistol, shotgun, rifle, or other firearm or display such weapon in a threatening manner while committing or attempting to commit certain felonies such as murder, rape, robbery, carjacking, malicious wounding, and abduction. This is punishable by mandatory imprisonment of three years for a first offense and five years for a second or subsequent offense. This punishment is in addition to any punishment for the primary felony. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-53.1)

Also, it is a felony to intentionally discharge a firearm with a reckless disregard to human life, when this discharge results in a serious injury to another person. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-56.1)

Stalking

It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to engage in stalking, which is conduct directed at another person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury to that person or that person’s family. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-60.3)

Assault: assault and battery

It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to commit a simple assault or assault and battery against another person. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-57) Added penalties may apply under certain circumstances:

  • It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to intentionally select a victim because of race, religious conviction, color, or national origin. Mandatory 30 days in jail.

  • It is a Class 6 felony to intentionally select a victim because of race, religious conviction, color, or national origin if the assault results in bodily injury. Mandatory 30 days in jail.

  • It is a Class 6 felony to commit an assault or assault and battery against a law enforcement or correctional officer, firefighter, or rescue squad member engaged in the performance of his or her public duties. Mandatory six months in jail.

  • It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to commit an assault or assault and battery against any full-time or part-time school employee engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

Threat

In general, a threat is a communication of intent to kill or do bodily injury to another person or any member of that person’s family, when that communication places the other person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury to himself or herself or his or her family. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-60)

If the threat is written, the person is guilty of a Class 6 felony, which can result in imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years or confinement in a jail for not more than 12 months and a possible fine of not more than $2,500. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-60(A) (1))

If a written threat is made on school premises, at a school-sponsored event, or on a school bus, it is a Class 6 felony, even if the person who is the target of the threat doesn’t receive the threat. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-60(A) (2))

Wounding

Malicious wounding is a Class 3 felony and is defined as maliciously shooting, stabbing, cutting, or wounding another person or causing bodily harm, with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill. If the wounding is done unlawfully, but without malice, it is unlawful wounding and is a Class 6 felony. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-51)

It is a Class 2 felony if the victim of the malicious wounding is severely injured and is caused to suffer permanent and significant physical impairment; this is called aggravated malicious wounding. It is a Class 2 felony also if the victim is pregnant and she is severely injured or caused to suffer permanent and significant physical impairment, including the involuntary termination of her pregnancy. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-51.2)

Robbery with assault

It is a felony to commit robbery by partial strangulation, or suffocation, or by striking or beating or other violence, or by assault or otherwise putting a person in fear of serious bodily harm, or by the threat or presenting of firearms, or other deadly weapon. This is punishable by imprisonment for life or any term not less than five years. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-58)

Abduction

It is a Class 5 felony to seize, take, transport, detain, or secrete another person by force, intimidation, or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, with the intent to deprive such other person of his or her personal liberty or to withhold or conceal him or her from any person, authority, or institution lawfully entitled to his or her charge. (Code of Virginia § 18.2-47)

  • This is a Class 1 misdemeanor if committed by a parent or guardian.

  • This is a Class 6 felony if committed by a parent and the child is removed from the Commonwealth of Virginia.