When close to 100 kids are accused of breaking into their high school and engaging in a variety of malicious actions, including urinating in the hallways, it’s unlikely that the defense that it’s a yearly prank will hold much legal water. Unfortunately, 24 of the 60 or more students arrested are over 18 and subject to prosecution as an adult under New York law. Each defendant will want to obtain criminal defense counsel and determine, with great detail, to what extent there are viable defenses and mitigating circumstances that can help them out. There are questions of criminal intent, for example, that may conceivably serve to mitigate, if not dismiss, the charges.
The students are also accused of greasing doorknobs with Vaseline, tying lockers together and flipping over desks. They are also said to have applied graffiti to the walls and engaged in similarly mischievous but largely repairable actions. Police responded at 2:30 a.m. to a burglar alarm and found the chaotic scene at the high school. Each defendant will have to be interviewed by counsel to determine whether any particular defense may stand out.
If the defendant was arrested outside of the school property, for example, there may be a complete defense. If any defendants were there specifically to discourage their schoolmates from getting into trouble, they are well-advised to obtain criminal defense counsel quickly and act to put their defense on the record. For others, plea bargaining for reduced charges less than burglary, such as malicious mischief or disorderly conduct, may be advisable and could, in some cases, be considered an optimal outcome. Of course, each accused individual may also opt for a trial on the charges, forcing prosecutors to actually prove their case in court.
To the extent that a defendant did not participate in egregious and severe destruction of property, and it appears that most or all did not do so, criminal defense counsel may be able to obtain a special disposition under New York law that will allow for expungement of the conviction after a successful period of probation. In each instance, the individual’s case must be evaluated in detail to determine the strongest course of action to take. An aggressive approach may be necessary, aimed at achieving the best disposition for the defendant under the facts presented.
Source: CBS New York, “Police: 62 Students Arrested After Senior Prank At Teaneck High School“, , May 1, 2014