High school end-of-year pranks are not entirely unusual, especially when the pranksters involve seniors graduating. When the pranks rise to the level of police arrests and filing criminal charges, however, the fun ends rather quickly. This was the situation facing sixty New Jersey high school seniors after their prank exceeded the boundaries of mischievous antics.
The prank involved over 100 students breaking into Teaneck High School in Teaneck, N.J., and reportedly smearing Vaseline on door handles, writing graffiti on walls, urinating in hallways, damaging furniture, and raiding the school cafeteria and throwing food into hallways. The police report that it appears some students used marijuana or other controlled substances on school premises.
This news article appearing in the Los Angeles Times quotes the Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli discussing the state’s decision to modify criminal charges to misdemeanor juvenile criminal charges against 63 of the over 100 students.
The prosecutor stated, “In coming to the conclusion (to file misdemeanor and not criminal charges), we considered the impact that criminal convictions may have on individuals at such an early stage in their life…. This is also taking into consideration the nature of the offenses, the damage done to property as well as the original intent that the students had when initiating this ill-advised conduct.”
The original intent referred to in Mr. Molinelli’s quote refers to the fact that the police mistakenly believed that the students had forcibly broken into the high school after hours, as well as prosecuting the possibility of serious bodily harm rather than the actuality of any harm. As it turns out, the students had obtained a master key as well as two other keys, and no injuries were reported following the well-coordinated but destructive stunt.
The Bergen County prosecutor’s office points out an important piece of information: the long-lasting damage that a criminal charge can have on a juvenile’s life. Fighting the original charge is one way to avoid those scars; if that does not work, expunging the juvenile’s record can also help. Working with an experienced and reputable juvenile criminal defense attorney can help in discussing what options may be available.
While the students in Bergen County (as well as their parents) should be relieved at the outcome, some young criminal defendants aren’t so lucky. If you have questions about fighting New Jersey juvenile criminal charges, speak to a qualified and experienced juvenile defense attorney today.