Arson: Know Your Felonies Part 6
What’s the difference between arson and aggravated arson?
Arson is the crime of intentionally burning a house, building, vehicle, watercraft, aircraft or other structure that can be occupied.
Aggravated arson takes the core definition a step further. A crime becomes aggravated arson when the fire or explosion creates a substantial risk of serious physical harm to a person other than the arsonist. For example, someone who sets fire to an occupied building creates a considerable risk that the people inside could be harmed, in addition to the damage done to the structure itself.
What are the penalties of arson?
A variety of circumstances can affect the charges and sentencing for arson, including whether the value of the property was more or less than $1,000; whether there was intent to defraud; whether the property was a park or government property; and if the act was done alone or someone was hired to cause the fire or explosion.
The charge you face depends on the property in question. The potential sentence ranges from a first-degree misdemeanor with up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000, to a third-degree felony punishable by 1-5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
The punishment for aggravated arson can be much more severe. For endangering others, you may be charged with a first-degree felony and 3-10 years in prison and up to $20,000. If you harm any occupied structure, you may be charged with second-degree felony and face a potential sentence of 2-8 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
What happens when a fire department suspects arson?
When the fire department suspects that the fire occurred out of intent, experts in determining the source and cause of fires are called in. Conducting an arson investigation includes analyzing burn patterns, searching for accelerants like gasoline and interviewing people associated with the incident. If the investigation reveals that the fire was intentional, the evidence is submitted for a forensic analysis. Once an arrest is made, the suspect is charged with a criminal offense. As soon as you are charged with arson, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.
There is also a chance that the accused will be sued in civil action. An example is if the accused arsonist has attempted to make an insurance claim for the damaged property, the insurance company may deny the claim and then bring a civil suit against the arsonist.
Arson investigators, who are trained in determining the “cause and origin” of fires, will conduct investigations that may involve examining burn patterns, looking for gasoline or other accelerants, and interviewing individuals. If it is determined that the fire was deliberately set, evidence is collected and submitted for forensic and submitted for forensic analysis. Once an arrest has been made, the suspect is charged with a criminal offense. An arson defendant also may be sued in a civil action. For example, if the arsonist has tried to make an insurance claim for the deliberately damaged property, the insurance company may deny the claim and then bring a civil suit against the arsonist.
When arson becomes murder.
An arsonist is responsible for the outcome of the crime, regardless of intent to harm others. This can include the deaths of anyone occupying the building, and even the death of any firefighters responding to a fire that is deliberately set.
When murder charges are on the table, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to begin working on how your case will be approached in court.
Turn to an experienced criminal defense attorney
When faced with this difficult time in your life, you need a knowledgeable lawyer who will lend a straightforward, thorough approach to your case. Contact our Downtown Columbus office at 614-224-6142 or online to set up an appointment to meet with one of our lawyers.
Learn about all of Stephen’s 19 years of experience as a Columbus criminal defense lawyer.