Teenage Girl Charged With Arson and Damage Of Utah Churches

An 18 year old teenage girl has been charged with arson for arson and damage to multiple churches in Orem, Utah.

Arson and damage to churches

Photo by: Joe Lodge

Two churches in Orem, Utah were damaged by an individual who broke doors and wrote satanic messages in permanent marker. Additionally, someone had poured gasoline in or near both of the churches yet only one had been set on fire. Police were able to quickly extinguish the small fires found within the single church. While attempting to locate the individual responsible, police located 18 year old Jillian Robinson of Lindon, Utah who was in possession of a permanent marker, burglary tools, gasoline, and a lighter. Police determined Robinson to be the one responsible after her possessions matched those possibly used to damage and commit arson to the churches. While originally denying her involvement, Robinson later admitted to police that she was angry and did not target the church specifically.

Arson and other charges

Robinson was booked into the Utah County jail on charges of arson, burglary, possessing burglary tools as well as criminal mischief. Utah Code 76-6-102 states “A person is guilty of arson if, under the circumstances not amounting to aggravated arson, the person by means of fire or explosives unlawfully and intentionally damages . . . the property of another.” Arson is a second degree felony if the damages of the event exceeds $5,000 in value. The damage caused by Robinson is said to be estimated around $600,000. Beyond the second degree arson charge, the 18 year old Robinson is also facing a third degree felony burglary charge as well as additional charges for possessing the burglary tools and criminal mischief.

Dealing with police

Photo by: Scott Davidson

Robinson has already admitted to her crimes and will need a good criminal defense lawyer as she prepares to have her case heard before a judge. Teens and young adults such as Robinson should be educated of their options prior to and following an arrest to avoid unnecessarily incriminating themselves. A couple things to keep in mind:

  • The released information about Robinson’s case does not include whether she consented to a search of her backpack containing the incriminating items or if officers claimed there was reasonable suspicion to suspect her of a crime. Teens should know when they are dealing with police that they have the right to state their lack of consent to a search without getting in the way of police who will search anyway.
  • Records indicated that Robinson agreed to make an incriminating statement to police about her involvement in the arson. It doesn’t state whether or not she agreed to the statement on her own or while accompanied by an attorney. Many young adults and especially teens do not realize that they have the right to request an attorney before they talk to police. Being represented by an attorney will help teens ensure they are being treated fairly and not admitting to more than they should.

Parents of teens and young adults are encouraged to educate their youth on their rights when dealing with police. Being prepared with this knowledge could help teens if they ever should face charges.

Criminal Charges For Lying to Police for a Friend

Many teens will do anything to protect their friends, but lying to police could result in obstruction of justice charges.

Lying to police

Photo by: Carmella Fernando

Talking to police officers can be intimidating to teens and they often feel they need to respond to every question asked. Unfortunately, many juveniles also want to protect their friends and may give dishonest responses to police questioning. They may lie to officers about a friend’s involvement in a crime to protect their friend from legal trouble or to protect themselves from backlash from peers for being a “snitch”. Unknown to many youngsters however, lying to an officer even if the person being questioned is not a suspect in the crime is still against the law.

Obstruction of justice

There are many ways teens may lie or otherwise display dishonest behavior in order to protect a peer. They may flat out lie in response to police questioning or they may throw items away for a friend or even supply transportation or a place to hide. If a person tampers with evidence, helps someone evade the law, or otherwise meddles with a criminal investigation, as stated in Utah Code 76-8-306, they could face obstruction of justice charges. Penalties for obstruction of justice vary from a class A misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on the crime a person is trying to help their friend avoid.

Prepare for questioning

Photo by: Ethan Lofton

Police officers are allowed to communicate with the public freely, asking questions about investigations or simply shooting the breeze. When this happens, teens shouldn’t feel trapped into answering questions that could incriminate themselves or another person. Preparing for possible inquiries from law enforcement may help teens avoid saying too much or saying things that aren’t true which could lead to legal trouble. Teens should always state their identity if asked by an officer but any further questions do not require answers without legal representation present. The person being questioned can politely ask in response to questioning:

• “Am I being arrested or detained?” ; and

• If the answer is ‘no’, they may then ask “Am I free to go?”

If they are required by an officer to stay and answer questions, ensure all teens know of their right to ask for an attorney and to exercise that right prior to answering any further questions. For more information related to crimes involving minor children and teens, contact a juvenile defense attorney.