Question of juvenile punishment in BB gun vandalism spree addressed

How legal are BB guns in Abilene?

ABILENE, Texas - The recent BB gun vandalism shooting spree has left many Abilenians wondering what the punishment will be for this type of crime.

Two 17-year-olds and two juveniles were arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief for the vandalism.

The laws on BB guns are clear in the city ordinance. It is unlawful to shoot or discharge any air gun or air rifle within the city limits. That's unless it's on a property at least 10 acres in size and 150 feet away from a home or occupied building.

"If we look back this recent crime spree, what did those BBs or pellets do?" Abilene Police Department spokesman George Spindler said. "They literally penetrated glass. They marked up steel on those cars. They broke windows, shattered them."

Police are urging parents to regulate the use of these air guns with their children and realize how accessible they are.

The possible punishment the two juveniles could receive is different than adults. The court has two different processes of punishment. There is probation and certification.

According to the juvenile prosecutor, there are three levels of probation before certification. The first is a general probation, which is similar to adults. The juvenile checks in with a probation officer and they can't break the law. The next level is a more intensive probation for serious crimes. There are more home and school visits, plus additional counseling. The third level is a post adjudication facility where the juvenile lives. Then, there is certification, which is when the case is turned over to the adult court. The juvenile is handed over to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department or certified.

A juvenile can be certified when they are 14, if the crime is a first degree felony. If the felony is second degree or below, the juvenile has to be 15. Sometimes if the juvenile is 16, and they have been through the system in addition to a serious crime, they are sent straight to adult court.

"Some cases, they're certified the first time," said Harriet Haag, Taylor County juvenile prosecutor. "Murders or sexual assault or first-degree felonies are going to be certified anyway."

But Haag said the juvenile has a better chance when parents are part of the rehabilitation process.

"When the parents get involved and really care, we can get the kid rehabilitated and straightened out," Haag said. "That child will not end up in the adult system nine times out of 10."

Neither the adult or juvenile cases have been turned over for prosecution yet.

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