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Bill ups charges for school threats, provides for 48-hour hold

June 14th, 2018

— Authorities could hold anyone who threatens a school or place of worship for 48 hours while they look for social media posts and other evidence of true intent under legislation that cleared the state Senate Thursday on a unanimous vote.

After that 48-hour period, it would be up to a judge to determine whether it’s safe to release the person on bond before trial.

The bill is patterned after domestic violence law, which uses the 48 hours for a cool down, said Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond.

“Pretty much every one of these people that has done a school shooting has left a footprint somewhere,” McInnis said.

House Bill 670 also makes mass threats against a school or house of worship a Class H felony. It would let a judge, with consent from the district attorney, to suspend to probation the five- to six-month prison sentence the charge carries for people under 20 who don’t have a criminal record. If that path is taken, the bill requires 30 hours community service, a mental health evaluation and follow up.

If those requirements are met, young people could have the charge expunged. The goal is to find out who has truly planned destruction and who simply “said something stupid,” McInnis said.

McInnis said parts of the bill grew from a conversation with a local sheriff, who told him that a man who threatened to shoot up a church was out on bond before the deputy even finished the paperwork on the arrest.

The bill addresses a loophole in current law: Communicating any kind of threat is a Class 1 misdemeanor, but making a false report of mass violence is a Class H felony.

The bill has a Dec. 1 effective date. It heads now to the House, where its initial sponsor, Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, said he expects it to pass.

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