What is the Proposed EAGLES Act?
February 27, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes Social Share
Two years after it was first addressed, the proposed EAGLES Act has been reintroduced in Congress by a group of U.S. Senators. The law aims to prevent future acts of mass violence by creating assessment measures for schools.
This page will provide details on the bill, along with the criminal charges for threatening a mass shooting or mass violence in Florida.
EAGLES Act Details
Five years after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in 2018 comes the reintroduction of a bill aimed to prevent acts of mass violence. The bill is titled the “EAGLES Act” to honor the high school’s mascot. One of the key points in the bill is to expand the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) to create a sharper focus on preventing violence at schools.
The NTAC was developed by the Secret Service in 1998. The organization was created to generate evidence-based indicators for targeted violence. Based on the findings, the NTAC is then responsible for developing training and practices to prevent such violent occurrences.
The U.S. Secret Service has created numerous training operations for over 198,000 schools since 2002. This includes training for administrators, teachers, school counselors, mental health professionals, school resource officers, and other involved public safety partners.
If the EAGLES Act passes, it will expand and reauthorize the NTAC to scale its threat assessment operations. It will also establish a nationwide program for targeted school violence prevention, providing resources for research and training. The Department of Education will be required to coordinate with the NTAC for any training plans.
The bill addresses how violent acts—such as the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman—are preventable. The text states that Nikolas Cruz, similar to other violent attackers, displayed concerning behavioral patterns leading up to the mass shooting. These alarming signs should have been addressed or alerted to law enforcement.
NTAC’s published research on targeted violence found that:
- Most of these violent incidents were planned ahead of time;
- The attackers’ behavior gave some indication that he or she was planning, or at least contemplating an attack;
- Most attackers had previously displayed patterns of behavior that resulted in concern by those in their life; and
- Prior to the attack, a person close to the attacker—whether it be a family member, friend, teacher, guardian, etc.—often knew or could have guessed that the attack was likely to occur.
From the NTAC’s research, they have developed a behavioral threat assessment model for preventing targeted violence, such as mass shootings. The overarching goal of the assessment model is to locate individuals at risk for acting out in violent ways toward others and provide an early intervention that helps and supports the individual.
According to the amended bill, early intervention is a proven and effective way to manage violent behavior which could otherwise cause harm to others, or cause serious consequences such as violence or criminal charges.
The three-step process of the behavioral threat assessment is as follows:
- Identifying individuals who exhibit threatening or concerning behaviors that indicate he or she poses a violent risk;
- Assessing if the individual poses a risk, based on specified factors; and
- Managing the risk posed through individualized proactive and preventive measures.
Especially in elementary and secondary schools with young children and adolescents, the behavioral threat assessment can be seen as a proactive approach to identify, assess, and give age-appropriate interventions or other resources for those who are showing signs of elicit behavior.
Responses to the Proposed Bill
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is the head of the bipartisan group of legislators who have reintroduced the EAGLES Act to Congress. Included in the legislation are cosponsors Marco Rubio (Florida), Rick Scott (Florida), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Angus King (Main), and Susan Collins (Maine).
The following is a statement from Sen. Grassley:
“Accurate behavioral threat assessments and early interventions are essential to maintaining a safe environment in our schools and communities and preventing another tragedy from taking place. The U.S. Secret Service is uniquely equipped to help evacuate these threats, and our bill would enable them to share their tools and expertise with school safety partners across the country. While we can never bring back the lives tragically lost in horrific acts of violence, we must do all we can to honor their memories by preventing future violence from occurring.”
“In the five years since the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we’ve worked every day to honor the 17 lives taken and to protect our schools, students, and educators,” said Scott. “Our bipartisan bill, the EAGLES Act, is an important step to improve school safety and provide more resources to law enforcement to prevent future tragedies from happening. I urge my colleagues to finally pass this bill.”
Criminal Charges in Florida for Threats of Mass Shootings
In the state of Florida, even just making a threat of mass violence can result in criminal charges. Florida Statute Section 836.10 explains that it is unlawful for any person to send, post, or transmit a writing or other record or electronic record which may be viewed by another person or group of people, when such writing makes a threat to:
- Cause bodily harm or kill another person; or
- Conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism.
Under Florida law, an “electronic record” can include any record which has been created, modified, archived, received, or distributed electronically. This can contain any combination of text, video, image representation, or audio—but excludes a telephone call.
A person who threatens a mass shooting or other acts of violence can be charged with a second-degree felony. The penalties for a second-degree felony in Florida include up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.
Important: We’ve recently covered threats of mass shootings and violence in Florida by children or adolescents under the age of 18. It is imperative to understand that even if the minor claims to have posted something “as a joke,” they can still face serious criminal consequences. Due to the nature of the offense, a minor who threatens to cause a mass shooting or other forms of violence could potentially be charged as an adult.
It is especially important to seek out legal guidance if you or someone you know has been accused of making threats of mass violence.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
It is clear that mass shootings have become too frequent in Florida—and the rest of the nation. We will continue to follow the EAGLES Act and its progress. Regardless of the proposed bill, there are serious consequences for any person who causes or threatens to cause acts of violence. If you or a loved one have been falsely accused of threatening mass violence, your first step should be speaking with a skilled Florida criminal defense attorney in your area.
Don Pumphrey and his team have years of experience working with clients across the State for a wide range of criminal offenses. We will strive to provide the best possible defense and work towards winning your case. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today for a free consultation by calling (850) 681-7777 or leaving an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key