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Historic Train Depot Suffers Significant Damage In Arson Fire
Four teenagers have been charged with burglary and arson, being taken into custody on February 25 after setting two fires the previous week. They set the fires on the grounds of the Seaboard Air Line Station, a historic train depot in Delray Beach, causing “significant damage” and injuring a first responder. If you are charged with arson, the consequences can be extremely serious, and it is crucial to contact an attorney who is well versed in this type of crime to help protect your rights.
Serious Potential Consequences
Arson in Florida is when anyone “intentionally and unlawfully,” or while committing a felony, damages (1) any dwelling or its contents, (2) any structure where people are normally present; and/or (3) any structure where the person knew (or had reasonable grounds to believe) that there were people inside, “by fire or explosion.” Depending on whether there is injury or death involved or not, arson can be either a first- or second-degree felony, carrying a 15 to 30 year prison sentence and up to $10,000 in fines. There are also misdemeanor arson charges, though these tend to fit very specific situations.
In addition to any criminal consequences that you might experience upon conviction, you may also face more social or economic problems with a criminal record. An arson conviction can impede your ability to get a job, to obtain immigration benefits (which often require a showing of good moral character), rent housing, and many other benefits that one normally might take for granted. This is all the more reason to make sure that you have an experienced attorney on your side at trial.
Juvenile Defendants May Face Different Fate
Adults charged with arson will usually face a plea-bargain or a trial under Florida’s statute, as well as any juvenile defendants charged as adults. The four teenagers who have been charged in connection with the Seaboard Air Line Station fire were charged with burglary and arson, which implies that they will be tried as adults. (Florida is one of the states where juvenile defendants may most commonly be charged as adults, especially boys.) However, if a juvenile does commit this sort of crime, they may be judged by Florida’s juvenile justice system if the prosecutor determines it appropriate.
The juvenile justice system will not allow defendants to escape without consequences, but if a minor is convicted in juvenile court, the sentence is more geared toward rehabilitation and preventing reoffense, rather than just punishing someone who has committed a crime. Residential treatment and other sentencing options are more often used for juveniles, especially those who have not been in trouble with the law before.
Call A West Palm Beach Arson Attorney
While arson is a less common crime than, say, assault, it is still a very serious offense and needs to be dealt with in a serious way. Contacting a West Palm Beach criminal attorney at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. is a good first step toward making sure you get your fair day in court. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.