Student Criminal Liability

Student Criminal Liability

Criminal Liability in general

About Criminal Liability in general, see here.

Student Criminal Liability

New Mexico Court of Appeals long ago alerted law enforcement that the statutory language on which the officer relied for the arrest in many casees does not criminalize “noise[s] or diversion[s]” that merely “disturb the peace or good order” of individual classes. State v. Silva, 525 P.2d 903, 907 (N.M. Ct. App. 1974). Instead, in
A.M. v. Holmes, 830 F.3d 1123, 14-2066, United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, July 25, 2016, the court explained, the law requires “a more substantial, more physical invasion” of the school’s operations – proof that the student more “substantially interfered” with the “actual functioning” of the school. Id. at 907-08. What’s more, other state courts have interpreted similar statutes similarly.

They’ve sustained criminal convictions for students who created substantial disorders across an entire school. See, e.g., State v. Wiggins, 158 S.E.2d 37, 42-44 (N.C. 1967); State v. Midgett, 174 S.E.2d 124, 127-28 (N.C.
Ct. App. 1970). But they’ve also refused to hold students criminally liable for classroom antics that “momentarily divert[ed] attention from the planned classroom activity” and “require[d] some intervention by a school official.” In re Jason W., 837 A.2d 168, 174 (Md. 2003). Even when the antics required a teacher to leave her class for several minutes, In re Brown, 562 S.E.2d 583, 586 (N.C. Ct. App. 2002), or otherwise “divert[ed] the teacher or the principal from other duties for a time,” P.J.B. v. State, 999 So. 2d 581, 587 (Ala. Crim. App. 2008) (per curiam). See also, e.g., S.L. v. State, 96 So. 3d 1080, 1083-84 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012). This authority may be sufficient to alert any reasonable officer in this case that arresting a now compliant class clown for burping was going a step too far.

In response, A.M. v. Holmes suggest that Silva is distinguishable because it interpreted not the state statute addressing misconduct in public schools on which the officer here relied, see N.M. Stat. Ann § 30-20-13(D), but another statute dealing with protests at colleges, see N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40A-20-10(C) (1972). And that much is true enough. But the unobscurable fact remains that the relevant language of the two statutes is identical – requiring the government to prove that the defendant “commit[ed] any act which would disrupt, impair, interfere with or obstruct the lawful mission, processes, procedures or functions” of a school. Silva expressly held that this language does not criminalize conduct that disturbs “merely the peace of the school session” but instead requires proof that the defendant more substantially or materially “interfere[d] with the actual functioning” of the school. 525 P.2d at 907. Neither do my colleagues offer any reason why a reasonable officer could have thought this same language carried an entirely different meaning when applied to public school burps rather than college sit-ins – and the parties supply none. Cf. Smith v. City of Jackson, 544 U.S. 228, 233 (2005) (“[W]hen Congress uses the same language in two statutes having similar purposes, . . . it is appropriate to presume that Congress intended that text to have the same meaning in both statutes.”).

In A.M. v. Holmes the Court dismiss the authority from other states interpreting similar statutes similarly. Maj. Op. at 49-50. But again it’s hard to see why. After all, these cases draw the same distinction suggested by Silva – between childish pranks and more seriously disruptive behaviors – and hold that only the latter are prohibited by statutes like the one before us today. And they draw that distinction, too, because disciplining children who temporarily distract classmates and interrupt lessons “is simply part of [traditional] school activity” and part of its “lawful mission . . . or function[].” In re Jason W., 837 A.2d at 174; see also In re Brown, 562 S.E.2d at 585-86. Given that, I would have thought these cases would have only reinforced the lesson Silva already taught reasonable officers in New Mexico. See Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 617 (1999) (noting law may be clearly established if there is “a consensus of cases of persuasive authority such that a reasonable officer could not have believed that his actions were lawful”).

Often enough the law can be “a ass – a idiot,” Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist 520 (Dodd, Mead & Co. 1941) (1838) – and there is little the judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically their job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people’s representatives. Indeed, a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels.

Student Criminal Liability: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Student Criminal Liability. This part provides references, in relation to Student Criminal Liability, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Student Criminal Liability by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Student Criminal Liability and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Student Criminal Liability or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Student Criminal Liability and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Student Criminal Liability. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Student Criminal Liability should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Student Criminal Liability when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

1 thought on “Student Criminal Liability”

  1. If a seventh grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what’s a teacher to do? Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal’s office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that’s too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen year old to the principal’s office, an arrest would be a better idea. So out come the handcuffs and off goes the child to juvenile detention. My colleagues suggest the law permits exactly this option and they offer ninety-four pages explaining why they think that’s so. Respectfully, I remain unpersuaded.

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