As a criminal offense, arson is often allegedly committed by people who are attempting to commit insurance fraud or willfully damage the property (and possibly endanger the safety) of another party. One group of people that is frequently prosecuted for alleged arson offenses in Texas is minors.
On February 13, the Austin American-Statesman reported that a Pflugerville High School student was charged with first-degree arson after a fire caused an evacuation of the school. District officials told the Statesman that Pflugerville police investigated an object that was set on fire in the restroom.
In November 2016, the Statesman reported that a 17-year-old student at Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park was charged with arson after allegedly trying to set fire to a school bathroom. The alleged offender was also charged in an unrelated case with theft and possession of drug paraphernalia.
While arson cases involved alleged offenders who are minors are usually prosecuted in the juvenile court, arson offenses that involve bodily injury or death can be subject to determinate sentencing in Texas. Under a determinate sentence, a juvenile is committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) until their 19th birthday and then his or her case is transferred to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for the remainder of the punishment.
Georgetown Juvenile Arson Lawyer
Arson is always a felony offense in Texas. The grade of the felony charge is determined by other factors relating to the alleged offense.
Arson is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if an alleged offender recklessly starts a fire or causes an explosion while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance and the fire or explosion damages any building, habitation, or vehicle. It is also a state jail felony if the alleged offender intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion that recklessly damages or destroys a building belonging to another or recklessly causes another person to suffer bodily injury or death.
Alleged offenders can be charged with third-degree felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000 if they recklessly start a fire or cause an explosion while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance and the fire or explosion results in any person suffering bodily injury or death. Texas Penal Code § 28.02 makes arson a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000 when an alleged offender starts a fire, regardless of whether the fire continues after ignition, or causes an explosion with intent to destroy or damage any vegetation, fence, or structure on open-space land, or any building, habitation, or vehicle:
- knowing that it is within the limits of an incorporated city or town;
- knowing that it is insured against damage or destruction;
- knowing that it is subject to a mortgage or other security interest;
- knowing that it is located on property belonging to another;
- knowing that it has located within it property belonging to another; or
- when the person is reckless about whether the burning or explosion will endanger the life of some individual or the safety of the property of another.
Arson in such cases can become a first-degree felony offense punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000 when an alleged offense results in bodily injury or death being suffered by any person or the property intended to be damaged or destroyed by the alleged offender was a habitation or a place of assembly or worship.
Many minors who are accused of arson did not appreciate the severity of the crime they allegedly committed. Georgetown criminal defense attorney Michael J. Price understands the profound implications that a criminal conviction can have on the life of a teenager, and he works tirelessly to help alleged juvenile offenders achieve the most favorable outcomes to their cases that result in the fewest possible penalties.