Fourth of July is a month away. Californians planning on celebrating the holiday with firecrackers may want to glance over the state Supreme Court’s opinion in In re V.V., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law, issued Monday.
The case began in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest, when two 17-year-olds threw a “cherry bomb” into brush and ignited a 5-acre fire.
Petitions were sustained against both minors for violating Penal Code 451 pc arson and Penal Code 452 pc reckless burning. However, in separate appeals, Division One of the Court of Appeals upheld the Penal Code 451 pc arson violation whereas Division Eight decided that only a Penal Code 452 pc reckless burning violation could be sustained under the facts.
The California Supreme Court agreed with Division One. Two justices dissented.
Even though the minors may not have actually intend to do harm, the high court held, arson is a general intent crime and the element of “willfully and maliciously” setting fire was satisfied because the minors were “aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that the direct, natural, and highly probable consequence” of throwing a lit ‘cherry bomb’ under the circumstances would cause a fire.
The minors were declared wards of the state and placed on home probation, one of many dispositions available in the California juvenile delinquency system.