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The People v. J.H. and V.V., Juveniles, Shows Need for Strong Los Angeles Defense Lawyers

June 14, 2011

The California Supreme Court case of two juveniles caught throwing a cherry bomb at a hill that set off a large-scale brush fire was recently decided by the The People v. J.H. and V.V. Juveniles -- Justices found they had committed arson.

Some people believe that being arrested as a juvenile is a "free pass" that won't ever affect a person in the future. But that's not always the case. Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyers have seen where teens facing criminal charges are denied acceptance into colleges and universities and can't get good jobs because of juvenile records. Serious traffic offenses remain on your record in adulthood and other crimes can be considered during sentencing, even into adulthood.
In the case recently decided by the state's high court, the two juveniles were 17 in 2008 when they were on a hill behind a residential street in Pasadena. One of them lit a large firecracker, which the other threw onto the brush-covered hillside. The explosion caused a five-acre fire fire that came within 60 to 75 feet of a residence.

After being spotted by neighbors and arrested by police, each gave statements to detectives, telling them they had planned on lighting the fireworks to blow them up to make a lot of noise, not thinking the area would ignite. They said they aimed for a concrete area, not the grass.

A juvenile court found both had committed arson, though they didn't intend to set anything on fire, and placed them on home probation. But separate appellate courts made different rulings on the case. In one of the teen's cases, a court found the intent to commit arson wasn't present in the case, while a different panel of judges ruling on the other teen found that it was.

The Supreme Court affirmed the case of the teen whose appellate court found that he had committed arson and reversed the judgement of the other teen, whose appellate court found that he didn't commit arson.

What this shows is that even three years after a juvenile incident, the case can still linger in the criminal justice system and affect a teen charged with a crime. While the identities of the teens are labeled as their initials, with the Internet and large amount of news media in California, it is always a risk that the names of juveniles charged with crimes will get out and be exposed.

That can lead to unwanted attention to a juvenile, which can cause them problems in the future. Even a charge of throwing a firecracker has the ugly distinction of being called an "arson," which looks terrible if a potential employer or university admissions representative sees it. Certain juvenile crimes can disqualify teens from serving in the armed forces or other civic programs.

These charges must be fought aggressively and it's also important to note that in California, teens can be charged as adults in certain situations. It is imperative that an aggressive defense lawyer be hired to ensure that the teen faces juvenile charges rather than adult charges because of the potential penalties, exposure to the public and lasting ill effects in the future.

If you are facing juvenile charges in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. to discuss your options. Through three decades of experienced, Attorney LaBarbera has argued over 200 criminal trials and appeals. Call (714) 541-9668 for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.