The technical description of arson is the deliberate act of setting fire to a property. The property can be a building, or even an empty lot of land. Here are some things you may not be aware of as far as the crime of arson is concerned:
It Must Be Intentional
You won't be charged with arson if it's proven that the fire was accidental. For example, you won't be charged with arson if you forgot to turn off the stove in the morning and it caused a fire that spread to the neighbor's house. Note here that the intent, in this context, is the intent to start the fire and not to burn down a property. Therefore, you can be charged with arson if you just wanted to light a "small" fire to scare off a neighbor you have been having problems with, but the fire accidentally spread and burned the neighbor's house. Therefore, if you are facing arson charges for a fire you accidentally started, tell your lawyer about it and let them use it in your defense.
Indirect Fires Also Count
You don't have to set fire directly to a property for your actions to count as arson; indirect fires also count. Take an example where you intended to burn neighbor A's shop, but the fire eventually spread and burned both neighbor A's and neighbor B's shops. In this case, you will be charged with two cases of arson (burning neighbor B's shop also count) even though you never targeted neighbor B's shop directly.
Burning Down Your Property Also Counts
It used to be that you would only be charged with arson if you burned someone else's property. However, this strict definition of arson left out those who intentionally burned down their properties in schemes of insurance fraud. As such, most jurisdictions have expanded their definitions of arson to include those who burn down their own homes. In this case, however, many states will only charge you with arson if you had a fraudulent intention when burning down your home.
There Are Various Classes of Arson
Lastly, you should know that arson charges are not all the same; there are various categories of arson with varying severity. Here are some of the things that determine the severity of an arson charge:
- Whether someone got injured or killed
- The cost of the damage
- Whether the property was occupied
- The type of property you set fire to
- Your intentions for burning the property
Therefore, even if your lawyer doesn't succeed in getting your charges dismissed, they may be able to have the charges downgraded to a lesser one depending on the circumstances of your actions. That way, you may be charged with misdemeanor arson or reckless burning, which is relatively easier to defend and attract lower penalties. For more help, contact a criminal defense lawyer like Martinez, Raymond.