In the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, there have been reports of alleged threats against high schools in Cumberland County.
Some of those cases are currently processing through the Cumberland County court system.
The consequences of a guilty verdict go beyond the potential criminal penalties, according to Cumberland County district attorney Billy West, and should give anyone, especially young people, serious pause if they are thinking about even joking about doing something similar.
“I think the most important thing for young people to understand is it’s a felony under North Carolina law to do that,’’ West said. “There are a lot of negative consequences of a felony conviction, particularly for a young person.’’
West said making a threat against a school would qualify as an H felony, which is the second-lowest felony conviction possible in North Carolina. Someone convicted of an H felony, with no prior criminal record, could face up to six to eight months in jail, West said.
But jail time is only part of the problem for someone convicted of any felony, West added. “A lot of felonies have what we call collateral consequences,’’ he said. Those penalties go beyond having to pay court costs and fines and eventually working with a probation offer.
“You hear stories about people who had these felonies,’’ West said. “They can’t get the job they want. They can’t live where they want. They can’t go to school. It can be all because of a bad decision they made at a young age.’’
In some cases, convicted felons can take part in an expungement clinic like the one recently offered by Cumberland County. But even in those instances, West said candidates have to wait up to 10 years and must be convicted of a minor felony to even be eligible to have the penalty expunged from their record.
West said law enforcement, the school system and his office are taking any type of threat against a school seriously. “We have to do that in this day and time,’’ he said.