arson

What About Arson?

Arson is legally defined as the willful, malicious burning or charring of property. Bombings may also be considered arsons, and a targeted structure need not be entirely destroyed for arson to be charged. There are many types of arson crimes, ranging from terrorism to insurance fraud. While most arsons are directed against buildings, pyromania can also be charged against anyone setting fire to forest lands, boats, airplanes, or other properties.

Most states identify several degrees of pyromania, based on factors such as the building’s occupancy (or lack of it) and whether insurance fraud was involved. Setting fire to an occupied building will almost always bring a more severe arson charge than burning an abandoned barn in a rural setting. Arson is often part of domestic violence situations, used to hide other crimes including murder and fraud. Arsons involving death may produce murder charges in some states; arson is handled in several ways in various state and federal courts.

There Are Charges For Burning My Own Property?

In the state of New York, it doesn’t matter whether or not a person owns the structure which he or she sets fire to, that person can still be charged with arson and face fines, jail time, or both, under New York law.

The idea of going to prison over the burning of one’s own property might seem excessive, but the reason for the law is pretty simple – to protect citizens of New York from wayward and out of control fires set by people who thought they could keep the fire under control.

There are several instances in the past where defendants would use their intent only to cause damage to their own property as a defense against criminal charges for burning the property of another.  This has been shown where defendants set fire to their own property to prevent somebody else from getting it (“If I can’t have it, nobody can”) or so that they could collect the insurance cash from the destruction of the property.

Some people engage in pyromania for insurance fraud to get easy money. This can lead to even more criminal charges. For example, a person has a $1 million fire insurance policy on a ramshackle building that would be worth only $500,000 on the market. If the person burns the building down and then tries to collect on the insurance policy, that person may be convicted on two separate charges: arson and insurance fraud. All a prosecutor has to prove is that the fire was started maliciously; there’s no legal requirement for the building to burn completely or for the fraud to be successful.

It takes a pretty culpable state of mind to burn a property out of revenge or for a quick payday, but just because a fire happens, it does not always mean that a suspect was criminally culpable in setting it, and the law recognizes this.

Criminal vs. Accidental

The law makes clear distinctions between a person’s behavior and understands that accidents should not be punished as harshly as intentional malicious conduct.

It doesn’t matter what the suspect’s original intent in starting the fire actually was, so long as he or she actually intended to start the original fire.  In other words, a person who lights a match, with no other intent than to light it, watch it burn, and stomp it out, can be charged criminally under New York arson laws if that match falls to the ground and burns down a building.  Even though the intent was not to burn down the building, the fact that the original lighting of the match was an intentional act will create the link from having no intent to burn down a building to facing criminal pyromania charges.

Unfortunately, working against an overzealous prosecutor can muffle a suspect and prevent his or her side of the story from being told fully and honestly.  This is why pyromania suspects are urged to partner with a credentialed arson defense attorney as soon as they have contact with the police in regards to an alleged arson.  Only with an experienced attorney by their side will the accused have the best possible chance of having their side of the story heard in an unbiased court of law.

Arson Charges

The state of New York characterizes five degrees of pyromania, with fifth degree being the lowest level of the offense and first degree being the highest.

First degree arson, a class A felony, is the most serious charge a person accused of arson could face – it requires that the suspect have caused serious injury to someone not involved in setting the fire, or that the suspect set the fire with the expectation of financial gain and while a person not involved in setting the fire was present in the structure and while the presence of that person was reasonably foreseeable.

Second degree arson, a class B felony, is the next most serious charge of arson and requires the accused to have intentionally damaged a structure by setting a fire while an uninvolved party was inside the structure and while the presence of the other person was a reasonable possibility.

Third degree arson, a class C felony, only requires that the accused intentionally damaged a structure by starting a fire.

Fourth degree arson, a class E felony, requires an even lower standard of proof.  It only requires that the accused recklessly damaged a structure by setting an intentional fire.

Fifth degree arson, a class A misdemeanor, is the least serious charge a person accused of arson could face – it requires that the suspect intentionally damaged the property of another, without the property owner’s consent, by intentionally setting a fire or causing an explosion.

Hire A Long Island Arson Attorney

Arson penalties can be serious. Depending on the circumstances of the case, an arson suspect may face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.  In addition to jail time, individuals accused of arson face the risk of having to pay serious fines and losing the trust and support of friends, family, and the community at large. The specific facts of the case will weigh heavily on the type of punishment handed down, with stiffer punishments reserved for those whose actions result in the death or serious injury of another.

If you or someone you know faces criminal arson charges in the state of New York, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. If you’ve been charged, or even if you’re only being questioned, you need the counsel and direction of a good criminal defense lawyer. Arson cases don’t go away; they often get worse as the investigations continue. If you are suspected of arson or involved with arson in any way, speaking to a criminal defense attorney is the wisest choice you can make.

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The Many Layers of Arson in New York

Property crimes in New York include burglary, vandalism, trespassing, and arson. Arson crimes are committed for motives ranging from terrorism to insurance fraud. Arson is legally defined as the willful, malicious burning or charring of property. Bombings are also arsons, and a structure need not be entirely destroyed for arson to be charged. Arson can also be charged against anyone setting fire to forest lands, vehicles, or other properties. If you are charged with pyromania on Long Island, in New York City, or anywhere in New York State, get the legal help you need immediately, and contact an experienced Long Island criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible.

Arson: A Multi-Layered Offense

There are several different arson related offenses that exist in New York under which a person can be prosecuted.  The specific facts of each case will determine which level of pyromania a person should be charged with but, generally, the more culpable the behavior, the more severe the consequences faced. Setting fire to an occupied building will obviously bring a more severe arson charge than burning an abandoned barn in a rural setting. Arson is often a part of domestic violence situations, and it’s also sometimes used to hide other crimes including murder and fraud.

A Matter of Degrees

For example, at the lowest end of the spectrum is pyromania in the fifth degree, which is identified by the intentional setting of a fire or causing of an explosion that causes damage to another person’s property.  While this might sound general enough to include just about every possible scenario of arson, it is usually reserved for incidents when only minor damage occurs.  Other statutes exist for more serious incidents that result in deaths or that are committed against certain types of property.

Fourth degree arson is identified by an element of recklessness in the intentional setting of a fire or causing of an explosion.  Third degree arson is identified by the specific setting of a fire or causing of an explosion that causes damage to a building or vehicle.  Third degree pyromania is considered more severe than fifth degree because setting a fire or causing an explosion to a building or vehicle is more likely to cause injury to someone else than simply burning property that is not a building or vehicle.  Even more severe than third degree arson is arson in the second, identified by the known presence of another person in the building or vehicle that is intentionally set fire to or damaged by explosion.

The most serious form of arson is first degree arson, which is identified by the presence of a death or injury as the result of an intentional setting of a fire or explosion.

Arson penalties are serious; even a fifth-degree misdemeanor pyromania can put you in jail for a year if you’re convicted. If you or someone you know faces a criminal arson charge in New York or on Long Island, retain the advice and services an experienced Long Island criminal defense lawyer at once. If you are suspected of arson, it’s the wisest choice you can make.

What Arson Suspects Face

Depending on the circumstances of the case, an arson suspect may face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. In addition to jail time, individuals accused of pyromania face the risk of having to pay serious fines and losing the trust and support of friends, family, and the community at large. Not to mention the civil damages that may follow a convicted arsonist after a guilty verdict in criminal court. The specific facts of the case will weigh heavily on the type of punishment handed down, with stiffer punishments reserved for those whose actions result in the death or serious injury of another.

What is important for arson suspects to understand is that there are several layers to the charge – in New York, the law recognizes five of these layers, or degrees, and treats each degree differently, both in terms of what must be proven by the prosecution and the ultimate consequence facing the person charged with the offense.

If Accused of Arson

When the police think they have enough evidence to show that a person committed one of the above mentioned degrees of pyromania, they can arrest the person and charge the person with the crime.  During the arrest and investigation, suspects are urged not to speak to police, under any circumstances, other than for purposes of identification and to request legal representation.

The attorney will be able to explain to the suspect exactly what crime he or she is being charged with, what evidence exists to substantiate the charge, the potential consequences of the charge, and the suspect’s best legal options moving forward.  Considering how much is at stake in a serious pyromania charge, letting a skilled attorney handle their defense is a person’s best bet for clearing their name.

If you have been accused of arson, it’s important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. You don’t have to prove your innocence. The burden is on the prosecution to prove that you are guilty, so stay silent and let your Long Island pyromania attorney handle the legalities of the criminal case.

When a case goes to trial, the prosecution is required to present their case.  In order to show that a suspect actually committed a crime, the prosecution must show the presence of certain elements of the offense.  If any of the essential elements can’t be proven, the prosecution has no case.  However, disproving any of these elements can require skilled legal experience and is not something that should be trusted to someone without legal experience. Don’t put your future in the hands of a public defender who will not work tirelessly to fight your charges and achieve the best possible outcome for your case. With up to 25 years in prison on the line, there is simply too much at risk to trust a defense to anything but credentialed and proven legal counsel.

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