We often say, “kids will be kids,” when they get in trouble. But sometimes, “horsing around” can cause real damage and have serious legal consequences. That's what a Cumberland County boy recently discovered. Police arrested a juvenile for two fires set at Schaeffer Park on December 4 and December 8, 2023. Police said the fires damaged property and the child now faces charges of arson, criminal mischief, and being at a park after hours. His case is pending with the Cumberland County Juvenile Probation Department.
Arson in Pennsylvania
Arson can be a serious crime in Pennsylvania. While “dangerous burning” is sometimes a summary offense, it can range up to a first-degree felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime.
- Dangerous Burning: Arson is a summary offense if someone “intentionally or recklessly starts a fire to endanger any person or property of another whether or not any damage to person or property actually occurs.” 18 Pa. Code § 3301(d.1) (2014).
- Arson Endangering Persons: If someone intentionally starts a fire that endangers someone's life or is directed at an occupied building, it can be a first-degree felony and second-degree murder.
- Arson Endangering Property: If someone intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion that damages or recklessly puts other property in danger, it can be a second-degree felony.
- Aggravated Arson: It's a first-degree felony if someone intentionally starts a fire attempting to cause injury intentionally, recklessly causes injury, or someone is inside the property. Aggravated arson can also be second-degree murder if someone dies, including firefighters.
- Reckless Burning or Exploding: It's a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania if someone intentionally starts a fire that recklessly puts someone's property in danger or puts any personal property with a value over $5,000, including vehicles and boats, in danger.
Criminal Mischief in Pennsylvania
Vandalism or damaging someone else's property is legally known as criminal mischief in Pennsylvania. Someone can face criminal mischief charges in Pennsylvania when they:
- Damage someone else's property intentionally, recklessly, or negligently using fire,
- Intentionally or recklessly tamper with someone else's property that can endanger another,
- Deface or damage public property with graffiti,
- Intentionally damage someone's real property,
- Intentionally deface property with a paintball gun, or
- Intentionally or recklessly causes a monetary loss to someone else by deception or threat.
18 Pa. Code § 3304 (2005).
Juvenile Offenses in Pennsylvania
While juveniles charged with crimes will fall under a different legal system in Pennsylvania, they can still face serious consequences if they are “adjudicated delinquent,” the equivalent of a conviction. Your child could face time in a juvenile detention facility, interruptions to their education, and fewer educational and career opportunities in their future. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for their case.
You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have a child facing criminal charges in juvenile court, the consequences can still be serious. That's why you need a skilled criminal defense attorney, well-versed in handling juvenile charges, protecting your child's rights, and guiding you through the process. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm have defended Pennsylvania juveniles for years, and they can help you too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888.535.3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.