According to the US Fire Administration, arson is a leading cause of fire hazards in the country. With 267,000 annual fires, 475 deaths, and 2,000 injuries per year, arson costs the country’s economy a whopping amount of $1.4 billion per year.
Due to such high loss, Arson crime accusations can be pretty troubling. If you or your loved ones are charged with this crime, you shouldn’t waste a second of your time and go now to a criminal lawyer.
What Exactly Is Arson?
Arson is described as purposely setting fire to another person’s property or one of the nearby infrastructures. It is one of the most severe property crimes in the United States.
In most jurisdictions, setting fire to personal property (such as vehicles, vessels, or machinery) qualifies you for arson charges. It may also include purposely causing a forest fire or destroying a farmer’s crops.
If you’ve been charged with arson, speaking to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can clarify your options and help you build a strong case should be your first step.
Identify the Type of Arson
Whether the fire started accidentally or deliberately can determine the form of arson or related penalty. The penalty also depends on whether the property destroyed in arson was occupied or not.
Types of Fire offenses
- First-Degree Arson
It refers to the intentional burning of another person’s inhabited property or a nearby occupied building. It is also known as aggravated arson. To charge someone with First-Degree Arson, the law requires substantial evidence to show that the fire was started with intent and malice. A person’s motivation for aggravated arson can be influenced by emotional stress, causing him or her to set fire to an inhabited building to instill fear or exact revenge.
- Second-Degree Arson
Second-Degree arson refers to the intentional burning of another person’s unoccupied home or a structure adjacent to it. The only difference between first and second-degree arson is whether the house or building was inhabited when the fire was ignited.
- Fire/ Burning Offenses
It includes a wide range of offenses involving the unintentional or intentional burning of a person’s property. Many genuinely unintended fires are sparked by children who are naturally curious about fire. Accidental fires may also be started in several other ways, such as sleeping with a lit cigarette and setting fire to the couch or bed or not fully extinguishing a campfire.
If you’ve been charged with arson for an unintentional fire, you’ll need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to prove the fire wasn’t arson.
Another thing to keep in mind is that arson, like most burnings, is a criminal offense. The state will seek arson or similar charges if there is evidence that a person was preparing or setting a fire.
Consequences of Arson
The seriousness and degree of the crime determine the penalty if a person is convicted of arson.
The following are some of the possible outcomes:
a) Arson offenses might result in the accused spending their entire life in prison if they intentionally set fire to harm or murder a person. Other prison sentences will last anywhere from one to twenty years, depending upon the arson’s degree and nature.
b) Probation imposes limitations and conditions on the convicted offender, such as reporting to a probation officer, obtaining permission to leave the state, and refraining from committing any further crimes. If probation is broken, the convicted might be imprisoned. Probation might last anywhere from one to five years.
c) Fines and penalty, which can range from a few thousand dollars to $50,000, can also be added to a term of imprisonment or probation.
d) After someone is convicted of a felony, they must pay for the property lost due to the crime; this is called restitution in legal terms.
If you or any of your family members have been charged with arson, it is advised to go now and consult a criminal defense lawyer. A skilled criminal defense lawyer would be well-versed in state law and with the city courts and lawyers. A council will also help you solidify your defense strategy in your arson case by gathering facts and evidence on your behalf.