Arson, defined as intentionally damaging property by fire or explosives, is a felony; the penalties vary according to the value of the property destroyed and the defendant’s motives for setting the fire or causing the explosion.
On paper, the definition of arson is simple; arson occurs when you destroy someone else’s property using fire or explosives, as well as when you set fire to your own property and then pretend it was an accident in order to defraud your insurance company into paying you a settlement. You would be surprised how many people get falsely accused of arson, though, usually in connection to fires and explosions that happened by accident. If you are facing criminal charges because of an incident involving a fire or explosion, contact an Atlanta arson defense attorney.
The Different Types of Arson
All offenses in which the defendant intentionally caused a fire or explosion are arson, but the severity of punishment depends on what the person destroyed and what they hoped to accomplish by doing it. Third degree arson is intentionally damaging an item of property worth at least $25, such as if you set fire to your roommate’s sneakers or set off fireworks inside your ex-girlfriend’s handbag when she is in another room. By definition, third degree arson does not cause bodily harm. Its maximum penalty is five years in prison. Second degree arson is setting fire to or causing an explosion in a non-residential building, without the intent to defraud an insurance company or cause bodily harm to persons. Its maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.
First degree arson includes the following:
- Setting fire to a passenger vehicle, such as a car, train, or bus
- Setting fire to a house, apartment, or other residential structure
- Setting fire to a structure inhabited by persons at the time of the fire (such as a restaurant where customers and employees are present)
- Setting a fire in order to defraud an insurance company
The maximum penalty for first degree arson is 25 years in prison. You do not have to be the one to light the match to be found guilty of arson; you can be found guilty if you planned the fire and paid someone else to start it.
Not All Fires are Arson
Most fires and explosions are due to accidents, not arson. If you accidentally cause a fire, you are not guilty of arson. The owner of the property may file a civil lawsuit against you, though. If a judge in civil court finds that your negligence caused the fire, or that you failed to prevent it when it was your responsibility to do so, you could be required to pay damages to the person whose property was destroyed in the fire.
Atlanta Arson Defense Lawyers Will Help You Fight Unfair Charges
If you are facing criminal charges because of a fire that happened by accident, you need a criminal defense lawyer. Contact Ghanayem and Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia about your arson charges.