Defense Attorney for NJ Juvenile Charged with Committing Arson
Juveniles are rarely charged with arson alone in New Jersey. Rather, arson charges are typically filed along with other complaints for crimes such as burglary and criminal mischief. In more serious cases, aggravated arson or a charge of “causing or risking widespread injury or damage” may be filed as well.
If your juvenile child has been arrested for any arson related offense, give my office a call for help right away. I have defended juveniles against arson and similar charges in New Jersey.
New Jersey Arson Laws
The most serious arson charges result where any person, adult or juvenile, offers to pay or accept money or any benefit in exchange for starting a fire or explosion. This is a first-degree crime, which for an adult can carry 10-20 years in prison upon conviction. Juveniles can only be incarcerated for 4 years for a first-degree crime, unless a person dies as a result of the offense.
An arson is also of the first-degree if it is committed against a place of worship including a church, synagogue, mosque or temple. Not only is such a charge a first-degree, but it also carries a minimum 15 year prison term which may not be suspended.
The next most severe form of arson is second-degree aggravated arson. Aggravated arson is triggered when another person is put in danger of death or injury, where the purpose of the fire is to destroy a building, structure or forrest, or to commit a zoning or insurance fraud. A similar charge is for “causing or risking a widespread injury or damage,” also a second-degree offense in many cases. This charge imposes liability on an adult or juvenile who creates an explosion, flood, or similar act of recklessness. A juvenile can be detained for a maximum of 3 years if adjudicated delinquent for a second-degree offense and 2 years for a third-degree.
Most other forms of arson are graded in the third-degree. These include a juvenile purposely setting a fire that puts anyone in danger of injury or property in danger of destruction. Most areas of criminal and civil law do not impose liability for inaction. However, fourth-degree arson is triggered when a fire that an adult or juvenile lawfully started, but then went out of control is not put out or reported by that person if they could have done so without substantial risk to themselves. This also applies to those under a duty to prevent or combat fires who fail to do so. A juvenile can be detained for a maximum of 1 year for a fourth-degree offense.
Criminal arson charges can also give rise civil exposure as well. Obviously, any person who is injured or suffers a financial loss from an arson will want to be compensated. Criminal charges must always be handled with an eye toward a possible civil lawsuit. In cases where crimes committed by juveniles result in a lawsuit for monetary damages, parents or their homeowner’s insurance company may be held liable in certain situation.