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6 days ago
Just days before graduation, Jeremy Bates learns he failed his chemistry final and will not be graduating from high school. Determined to get "revenge," he plans to burn down the school. Jeremy's high school is constructed entirely of cinderblock and cement and contains no wood or other flammable items, however, and since Jeremy did not do well in chemistry, he does not realize that cinderblock and cement will not burn. He starts a small fire with twigs in the corner of his science classroom, but obviously the wall and floor do not catch on fire. A small black residue remains on the wall and floor. Can Jeremy be charged with arson? Why or why not? Are there any other possible crimes to charge Jeremy with?
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Criminal Law (Justice Series)
Edition: 2nd
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6 days ago
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Jeremy can be charged with arson. A similar question arose in Williams v. State, a case in which Tonyia Williams, a New Year's Eve party guest, started a fire in the basement of the house she was visiting after an argument. She was unsuccessful in setting the house on fire, but she managed to cause a measure of smoke and soot damage. She was convicted of arson, but argued that because there was no charring, she should not have been convicted. An appeals court disagreed, stating that "the smoke damage and the soot on the basement wall were enough to support a conviction for arson." The Indiana statute used to support Williams' conviction provided, in part, that a person is guilty of arson if he or she "knowingly or intentionally damages … a dwelling of another person without his [or her] consent." The appeals court decided that a looser interpretation of "damage" was warranted than that which the common law suggested. In other words, the court disagreed with the common law definition of damage, namely: … any charring of the wood of a building, so that the fiber of the wood was destroyed, was enough to constitute a sufficient burning to complete the crime of arson. Depending on the state, Jeremy may be charged with a lower degree of arson or criminal mischief, which is intentionally destroying or damaging another's property.
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