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Palm Coast teen accused of felony 'intentional burning 'for small fires

Late last Thursday and just after midnight on Friday, four small fires were set in residential areas in Flagler County. Police believe they are related, and they also believe they were all set by a 15-year-old from Palm Coast. He has been charged with intentional or reckless burning of lands, which is a third-degree felony, along with loitering and an apparent probation violation for another juvenile offense. Police say that he has admitted to setting the fires.

Each of the fires was small. The first occurred around 7:24 p.m. in the Webster Lane area of Palm Coast. Both the Palm Coast police and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office responded to the call, which was followed by calls about two other small fires nearby. A fourth fire was discovered in the Wellington Drive area. None of the fires caused any reported damage.

Sheriff's deputies then happened upon a nearby teen who allegedly smelled of smoke and was carrying a lighter. He was questioned and booked into the Flagler County Inmate Facility, although he was later transferred to the Volusia County Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Daytona Beach.

Perhaps to justify the decision to charge the juvenile with the third-degree felony known as "intentional or reckless burning of lands," the Flagler County Sheriff commented in a press release that "[the suspect] put the lives and property of people in this neighborhood in jeopardy."

While that may be true in the strictest sense, is this behavior really what the Florida legislature had in mind when it wrote the law?

As hard as it may be to remember in adulthood, teenagers often have a fascination with burning things, and it usually works itself out before causing real damage to persons or property.

Did the prosecutor over-charge this young man? Should he have been charged with criminal mischief, for example?

Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Palm Coast teen accused of setting multiple fires," Tony Holt, Jan. 25, 2013

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