Minors Accused of Setting Tennesse Fires Face Aggravated Arson Charges

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CNN News reports that the two juveniles now being charged with “aggravated arson” for the Tennesse fires that killed 14 people and injured 175 more people affected by the blazes. Prosecutor James Dunn, speaking live at a press conference yesterday, said, “All options available to the state in dealing with juveniles are on the table including the possibility of seeking a transfer of these juveniles to adult criminal court.” [1]
Every state has some kind of legal mechanism in place for juveniles to be tried in adult criminal court, and if convicted, to receive an adult criminal sentence,” says criminal defense lawyer Darren Kavinoky, Founding Attorney of 1800NoCuffs, The Kavinoky Law Firm. “The laws vary from state to state, and typically include some provision where children that are below a certain age are legally deemed to be incapable of forming the intent to commit a crime. But as children get older, and the criminal charges become more serious, there is an increasing likelihood that those kids will be treated like adults in the criminal justice system.”
The juvenile justice system is focused on rehabilitation, in ensuring that juvenile offenders do not become repeat customers of the justice system,” says Kavinoky. “What offends many is that the juvenile system has a cap on the amount of time juveniles can spend in custody, where those may not exist in the adult justice system (where the focus is on punishment, not necessarily rehabilitation). So, for example, if a minor is convicted of a serious crime in juvenile court in California, the California Youth Authority loses jurisdiction when the minor turns 25, which infuriates many people, and has resulted in a change in the law where, depending on the age of the minor, and the crime they are charged with, will either require them to be tried as adults, or at least give prosecutors the option to certify the minor from juvenile court to adult court. However when they get to adult court, though, those minors face the possibility of adult punishments, including life in prison, for serious crimes.”

Arson Crimes

Jamie Satterfield for Knoxville News reports that the two minors (ages 17 and 15) charged with aggravated arson by Sevier County Juvenile Court were, “horsing around with matches, sources say.” [2]
Arson, as defined by the FBI, is “any willful or malicious burning or attempting to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, etc.” [3] According to Findlaw.com, “Arson statutes typically classify arson as a felony due to the potential to cause injuries or death.” [4]

Aggravated Arson

The minors in Tennesse are facing Aggravated Arson charges which typically are filed when, “arson [is] accompanied by some aggravating factor, as when the offender foresees or anticipates that one or more persons will be in or near the property being burned.” [5]
1. Kevin Conlon. December 15, 2016. CNN. “Prosecutor: ‘Everything on the table’ for juveniles charged in deadly fire.” Retrieved via http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/14/us/tennessee-wildfire-charges/index.html.
2. Jamie Satterfield. December 9, 2016. Knoxville News Sentinel. “Sources: Teens toying with matches started Gatlinburg wildfire.” Retrieved via /.
3. FBI. Retrieved on December 15, 2016 via .
4. Findlaw.com “Arson.” Retrieved on December 15, 2016 via http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/arson.html.
5. U.S. Legal. “Aggravated Arson Law and Legal Definition.” Retrieved on December 15, 2016 via https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/aggravated-arson/.
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