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Thread: When is a School a School?

  1. #1
    Regular Member Virginiaplanter's Avatar
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    "Around 8:00 p.m. on Friday, August 25, 2006, appellant discharged a firearm in the City of Hopewell, hitting Kionna Jones in the throat. The discharge occurred approximately 795 feet from the property line of the premises leased by The LEAD Center, Ltd., (LEAD Center or Center) at 510 W. Poythress Street (premises). The LEAD Center leased the premises, a former Catholic school, from Saint James Catholic Church (church) and operated a "therapeutic day school" there. That school was licensed by the Virginia Board of Education as a "Private Day School for Students With Disabilities." The LEAD Center's lease with the church permitted the Center's students and personnel to access the premises Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The LEAD Center needed the church's permission to use the premises during other times. Requests for such permission were to be "dealt with [by the church] on a case by case basis." The original lease, which ran from December 1, 2004, to November 30, 2005, was timely renewed and "continued for a five-year period." The LEAD Center was operating a school on the leased premises in accordance with the terms of the lease on August 25, 2006.
    At trial, appellant moved to strike the Commonwealth's evidence, arguing that, at the time of the shooting, the premises leased by the LEAD Center did not constitute "school property" within the meaning of Code § 18.2-280(C) because, based on the terms of the lease, the premises reverted from school property to church property at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, August 25, 2006, and did not revert back to school property until 7:00 a.m. the following Monday morning. The Commonwealth countered that nothing in the statute required that the school be in session at the time of the discharge for the statute to apply. Finding the premises constituted school property "for the purposes of the statute," the trial court denied appellant's motion and convicted him under Code § 18.2-280(C).
    As relevant to the issue before us, the statute's language is plain and unambiguous and clearly manifests the legislature's intent to prohibit the discharge of firearms in the vicinity of the designated school properties. By its express terms, the statute refers to "the property line of any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school property." Nothing in this language limits the statute's application in the manner appellant advocates. The statute draws no distinction between schools that lease their facilities and those that do not. Nor does it distinguish between schools based on how or by whom they are used after hours. Likewise, the statute does not limit its application to only those schools that are in session or are occupied at the time of the discharge. Rather, the statute simply proscribes the discharging of a firearm within the specified distance to the property line of "any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school property."
    Additionally, the adoption of appellant's position that the premises constituted "school property" under the statute only during those times the LEAD Center was contractually permitted to use the premises would result in significant enforcement problems. For one thing, it would require law enforcement personnel to know or be able to easily determine the precise contractual terms of the schools operating in their jurisdiction. And, in the case of schools like the LEAD Center, which was explicitly permitted to use the premises after hours with the church's permission, law enforcement personnel would be required to keep track of when such permission was granted in order to know whether a particular firearm discharge was prohibited under Code § 18.2-280(C).
    We conclude, therefore, that the legislature did not intend Code § 18.2-280(C) to be applied in the restrictive, constrained manner appellant advocates here. Accordingly, we reject appellant's interpretation and hold that, at the time of the subject firearm discharge by appellant, the property line at issue in this case was a school "property line," within the plain meaning of Code § 18.2-280(C)."

    So the little one room school house at Gunston Hall is still a school because it is actually just after hours after 200+ years and John Mason might come back to use it. Sounds like the court needs some schooling.

  2. #2
    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    I wonder if the building was clearly marked as a school. Especially since the lease appears to have called out for part time use only, and the terms seem to imply that other non-school uses do tend to take place there.

    Why is it more incumbent upon a citizen to know that it is a school than for a LEO to know that it is not a school?

    TFred


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    Because, when you get right down to it, this is not actually a crime. Instead it is something written into the law for the purpose of inflating sentences.

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    Regular Member Thundar's Avatar
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    plus 1000

    (my plus sign doesn't work)
    He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to see. Pancho & Lefty

    The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us....There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! ...The war is inevitableand let it come! I repeat it, Sir, let it come . PATRICK HENRY speech 1776

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    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    Thundar wrote:
    plus 1000

    (my plus sign doesn't work)
    If on a PC:

    Place cursor where you want a "+".
    Hold down your ALT key.
    Using the keypad, enter 043 (that's zero, 4, 3)
    Release the ALT key.

    Magic!

    TFred


  6. #6
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    To throw out a small monkey wrench, but what about buildings owned by the School Division that are not schools?

    For example; if a community's school division has an administrative building where no 'schooling' is conducted - what would be the legal status in terms of OC/CC?

  7. #7
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    TFred wrote:
    I wonder if the building was clearly marked as a school. Especially since the lease appears to have called out for part time use only, and the terms seem to imply that other non-school uses do tend to take place there.

    Why is it more incumbent upon a citizen to know that it is a school than for a LEO to know that it is not a school?

    TFred
    Went by there on my way home this evening, drove around it twice, the only sign I found was a banner type sign that just said "The Lead Center". No marking on pavement, no street signs, no school buses, nothing on the building. Looksjust like another sheet metal office building. There is no way someone would know it is a school from just looking at it. I've lived here for almost 15yrs. and didn't know it was a "school".

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