Understanding Arson

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.

Chasing Cyber Crime

Cyber-crime may bring to mind images of elite hackers or issues rarely seen on a local level, but computer crimes are an increasingly common facet of criminal law in a world that is increasingly taking place online. Here are some of the regularly seen types of computer crime in New York state law, specifically those drawn out in Section 156 of the NY Penal Code.

Unauthorized use of a computer: this is one of the most commonly seen charges, which means you’ve used a physical computer or access a system without the proper authorization, or if you bypass a password to do so. This is considered a class A misdemeanor.

Computer trespass: More serious, and appropriately a class E felony offense, computer trespassing means accessing the computer or system without authorization, as above, but with the intent to commit a felony. This would also cover if a person knowingly gains access to computer material to which they were not authorized.

Computer tampering: This is an offense that can cover several degrees of severity, and involves intentionally changing or deleting data without the permission of the person to whom it belonged.

  • Even if you used the computer or system with the owners’ consent, the actions that you do while using the device or program can constitute as fourth degree computer tampering, which is a class A misdemeanor.
  • Third degree computer tampering, a class E felony, happens when the person was previously convicted of a computer crime, or if the tampering deliberately caused damages resulting in over $1000 dollars.
  • Second degree computer tampering involves all the same stipulations as fourth degree, as well as intentionally changing or destroying data with damages resulting in more than $3,000. This is a class D felony.
  • First degree computer tampering meets all the above requirements and causes more than 50,000 in damages. It is a class C felony.

Illegal Copying: A class E felony, unlawful duplication of computer related material software or program data that results in financial losses for the owners is known as illegal copying. The damages should amount to more than $2,500 and the individual should have intent to cause the felony. Copying the software is covered in this statute, as if the possession of stolen data even if you weren’t the one who actually copied it. If you knowingly possess a copy of computer related material that was unlawfully produced, you could be successfully charged with this felony.

In many of the above computer crime cases, defenses of believing that the defendant’s actions were legal can stand up in court. If you’re facing a charge of computer crimes, it’s often more serious than it sounds, especially when you did not know you were acting illegally. For an experience lawyer on your side, look no further than my office in Forest Hills, NY.  Call me, Stephan Siegel today at 718-575-3900 for a free consultation and to learn more about how I can put my computer crime court experience to work for you.