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In re V.V.

Supreme Court of California
51 Cal. 4th 1020, 252 P.3d 979 (2011)


Three minors, including V.V. (defendant) and J.H. (defendant), climbed a brush-covered hill behind a residential neighborhood. V.V. lit a firecracker, and J.H. threw it down the hill. The third minor decided not to participate due to concern that the act could result in injury. The firecracker caused a fire that burned five acres of brush. Upon being interviewed by the police, J.H. admitted to taking six firecrackers up the hill, and both J.H. and V.V. admitted to lighting one firecracker to make noise. V.V. claimed that their intention was to throw the firecracker to a green part of the brush, which was less likely to ignite, while J.H. claimed that he was aiming for a concrete area. The Los Angeles County district attorney pursued juvenile proceedings against both J.H. and V.V. for arson under California Penal Code section 451 or, alternatively, for the lesser offense of recklessly causing a fire. The juvenile court accepted the allegation of arson and made J.H. and V.V. wards of the state. V.V.’s wardship order was affirmed by one division of the appellate court, while another division of the appellate court reversed J.H.’s order. The two divisions of the appellate court disagreed as to whether intentionally lighting the firecracker and throwing it down the hill was sufficient to satisfy the malice requirement of an arson offense. The Supreme Court of California granted review for both cases.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Chin, J.)

Dissent (Werdegar, J.)

Dissent (Kennard, J.)

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