Arson and Reckless Burning
Arson is a very serious crime where someone causes a fire to be lit that causes damage to property or endangers someone’s life. Arson causes very serious concern for the community and law enforcement is forceful in pursuing these charges. There is a range of conduct included in both the arson and the reckless burning statutes. Investigators and prosecutors may look at conduct that may seem innocuous, such as setting off firecrackers, as a serious arson offense. Arson crimes may be extremely serious and require investigation by specially trained police detectives, the fire department, and the State Fire Marshall. Investigators may use chemical tests and other methods to locate the point of origin or cause of a fire. Motivations for the crime of arson vary. Some individuals engage in this behavior due to an underlying mental health issue or from a financial motivation, such as to collect insurance money. Investigators may simply be wrong that an arson occurred and a thorough investigation from your defense team can result in charges not being filed or charges being dismissed.
Abandoned Buildings and Structures
Causing a fire or explosion in an abandoned building or other structure that is not a building is a criminal act. Most likely, this would constitute the crime of Arson in The Second Degree. Arson in the Second Degree can include setting fire to a structure joining a building, a dock, a car, even crops. In order to be convicted of this crime, the person setting the fire or causing the explosion must do so knowingly and maliciously. An accident that causes this type of damage may arguably be a Reckless Burning offense or no crime at all.
Insurance fraud in the context of arson occurs where someone causes a fire or explosion on property with intent to collect insurance proceeds. If the property is valued at ten thousand dollars or more the crime of arson would be a Class A offense, the most serious type of felony.
Reckless burning is a less serious crime where a person knowingly causes a fire or explosion and thereby recklessly places a building or other structure, vehicle or other materials in danger of destruction or damage. Reckless burning differs from arson in that it does not require that the person setting the fire have a malicious intent. Rather, this is the crime that may be charged if a person sets a fire and is unable to control it or abandons the fire without properly putting it out.
Danger to Persons
Arson in the first degree includes situations where human life might be endangered. Any arson crime that is manifestly dangerous to human life, including firefighters, or occurs in any building in where there is a person who is not a participant in the crime is a Class A felony. If a person is injured or killed as a result of the arson, the accused could also be charged with various assault or homicide crimes.
Crimes involving fires on Federal property may be investigated by the Government and potentially charged as a Federal Criminal Offense. Federal offenses are extremely serious and can potentially carry much stronger penalties than State charges. If investigators have contacted you about a fire on Federal property contact an attorney experienced in Federal crimes immediately.