If you are being charged with a fiery crime and need to understand what your best defense can be, we’ve gathered some information to help you understand what goes into an arson definition, and what elements are necessary to prove that an individual committed arson. The penalties from this crime vary wildly, so it’s important to know what you’re up against in cases of arson.
Arson Defined: While arson of course covers crimes committed with fire, it also deals with those malicious damages caused by explosive devices. In either medium, arson is caused when it affects a building, inhabited structure, vessel, vehicle or other property—it is a property crime, although the higher levels of this crime doe deal with the intentional burning of property with the express interest to injure a person.
Crimes against Property: Arson and vandalism are linked in the way that the function as crimes against property very similarly. They destroy or damage property, and arson specifically burns structures or wild areas. To prove arson, the individual must not have committed the crime accidentally. It must have been done with malice, but that does necessarily mean the express intent to cause the burning: any person who acted with intentionally reckless conduct can be sufficiently proven to have had malice and classify the damage and destruction as arson.
Proving Arson: With evidence of both burning and criminal activity, arson can be proved, and the express intent of motive is not essential in proving arson. In New York State, there are five degrees of arson, each with increasingly serious penalties and results of the act. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Arson in the fifth degree: This is a class A misdemeanor, and applies when a person intentionally damages the property of another person by causing an explosion or fire without that individual’s consent.
- Arson in the fourth degree: This is a class E felony, and applies when a person recklessly damages a building or motor vehicle, again through the use of fire or explosives.
- Arson in the third degree: This is a class C felony, and is similar to the 4th degree charge, but the damage to the building or motor vehicle must have been intentional, rather than reckless.
- Arson in the second degree: This is a class B felony, and involves the intentional fire or explosives damage to a building or motor vehicle, with the knowledge that another person is present in the space, or with the reasonable expectation that a person would be occupying the area at the time of the crime.
- Arson in the first degree: The most serious of all, first degree arson is a class A-I felony and involves the injury of a person besides themselves, gives the offender a financial gain, was caused by throwing or placing an explosive device in the building, or if the explosion was caused expecting the presence of another person in the damaged or destroyed space.
If you are in need of an expert attorney to handle a case involving arson or one of my many other practice areas, give me, Stephan Siegel, a call today. I can be reached for a free consultation at 718-575-3900 and look forward to serving you soon.