Defending New Jersey Juveniles Charged with Arson
Arson is a serious criminal offense. If a juvenile has been charged with arson, the accused and his parents should know their rights. In certain cases, arson is not a crime committed with the intention of injuring anyone. It can arise from an underage person playing with matches or lighting fires. This doesn't make damage to property or injuries to others any less serious, but it can affect the punishment the youth might receive. In other cases, the fire is set purposely, making the ramifications far more serious for the accused.
The Degrees of a Charge of Arson in New Jersey
Under New Jersey state law, there are four degrees to the crime of arson and the charges depend on its severity and intent. A fourth degree charge of arson stems from failing to exert a reasonable effort to put out the fire or failing to alarm others of the fire. A third degree charge can stem from the following:
- If another person is recklessly placed in jeopardy of death or injury
- If a building or structure is placed in danger of damage or destruction
- If the fire is set for the purpose of collecting insurance on the property
- If the fire is set to exempt it from local regulations, such as zoning laws
- If a forest is recklessly placed at risk of being destroyed
There may be a charge of second degree arson—also referred to as aggravated arson—if the fire was started with the intent of causing damage.
First degree arson holds a mandatory sentence of 15 years without the possibility of parole. This charge is the most serious and is used when the target of the crime is a place of public worship.
What Happens When a Juvenile is Charged with Arson?
In the event of being charged with arson, a juvenile will have options that an adult doesn't have. That doesn't automatically mean the youth will be free of consequences. Commensurate to the severity of the charge, incarceration is a possibility even for an underage accused offender.
Arson is legally viewed as a violent crime. When a juvenile is charged, there will be a retention hearing to determine whether the child must be held until the time of a delinquency hearing at which point the decision of guilty or not guilty will be made. If a judgment of guilty is made, the offender will be sentenced.
A conviction of fourth degree arson, for example, does not generally result in incarceration. For third degree arson, the sentence can be far more severe. The youth can receive up to two years of incarceration and/or fines, probation, monitoring and community service.
Because arson can cause injuries, death and extensive property damage, any juvenile charged with the crime may be tried as an adult depending on the seriousness of the act. Parents should be aware that if their underage youth commits the crime of arson, civil penalties could be in play.
A Qualified Defense Attorney is Essential
After a charge of arson, it is up to the defense lawyer to assist the parents and the youth in achieving the best possible result. In many instances, the court may prefer treatment to incarceration. A qualified legal representative, such as the criminal defense attorneys at Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, will be able to explain all the options, provide advice and even locate a qualified therapist to examine the juvenile and make an evaluation for the attorney to present to the court and lessen the charges and punishment. Getting preemptive help can go a long way with the court and prove that the child is in treatment to prevent the crime from occurring again.
Contact the Law Offices of Villani & DeLuca for Arson Defense
The criminal defense lawyers at Villani & DeLuca are experienced in criminal law and representing underage people who have been charged with the potentially serious charge of arson. Regardless of the crime and where in New Jersey it was committed—Monmouth County, Ocean County, Brick or Point Pleasant—the parents of a juvenile charged with arson need to know their rights and provide a competent defense for their child.
If your child has been charged with arson, call to speak with the experienced attorneys at Villani & DeLuca today.