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The broader definition of arson, and the one most popularly used, is property damage via fire or explosion to privately-held property.
Arson can also occur if you intentionally cause destruction or damage by fire. If you start a fire that burns a home or business or causes forest fires and burns non-structures, such as crops, you could be charged with arson.
Arson is also defined as an attempt to, or an act of, destroying property or assets belonging to the United States — or which the federal government is responsible for — by fire or explosive.
There are six types of arson: single, double, triple, mass, spree and serial. The first three types refer to the number of different points of fire that are started to create a single blaze. Mass arson refers to four or more fires set at the same location to create a single fire, while an arson spree refers to a situation in which fires are set at three different locations at roughly the same time (accounting for travel, but with no lengthy period of time in between). A serial arsonist, by contrast, would be if you are responsible for setting multiple fires over a period of time.
Motives can also differentiate between the types of arsonists, from profit to revenge to pure excitement. Attempting to conceal a crime is another popular reason for arson.
Arson is typically charged by degree or severity of the crime in most jurisdictions, with the majority of the states aligning with either a three or four-degree system.
Fourth-degree arson, where applicable, applies to an act of attempted arson. Penalties are generally the lightest in response to this degree of the offense, as compared to the more serious types that actually result in property damage or loss of life.
Third and second-degree arson refer to situations in which a property, area or structure is burned down or damaged by explosives with nobody present. Charges are generally escalated from third to second-degree arson if the degree of property damage is substantial, often based on the monetary value cost as a result of the offense.
First-degree arson generally applies whenever an act of arson is committed upon an area or structure in which people are present, or if people are not known to be present yet the fire results in the grievous bodily harm or death of someone within the structure or area. As can be expected, charges of first-degree arson result in much heavier penalties if you are convicted than the previous degree of the crime.
If intent to create the fire or cause the explosion being charged cannot be established, this may present a problem for the prosecution.
In many jurisdictions, reckless burning is a stand-in charge for situations in which individual(s) started an unlawful and unwanted fire resulting in damage. The penalties for reckless burning are usually much less serious than those given for the crime of arson.
It is possible for arson charges to be dropped by the prosecution. Usually, the dropping of charges comes in response to a strong position adopted by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Lack of intent is one of the most viable defenses against arson charges. If there is a definite lack of substantive evidence to show that you intended to start a fire or create an explosion resulting in damage to a person or property, you may be able to get the charges dropped entirely.
The price schedule for attaining adequate legal counsel when facing arson charges rests on a very flexible sliding scale. Attorney fees can often range anywhere from $150 to $700 per hour and up.
Based on those ranges, a misdemeanor arson charge can cost you between $2,000 to $4,000 to defend (to provide an estimated range) while felony charges are much more expensive and often cost in excess of $10,000, depending on whether a favorable plea bargain can be easily negotiated or whether your case has to go to trial.
Expenses can go even higher if there is a great deal of nuance and research involved in your case, or if your case is expected to drag out in trial (by the estimation of your attorney). Please note: The estimates above are provided as an example only, and are not a guarantee that an attorney will charge that particular amount.
If you are suspected of arson or have been arrested for arson, you should consider hiring a Phil Campbell criminal defense lawyer who handles arson cases as soon as possible. The lawyer can protect your rights and defend you in court.
The more experienced a lawyer is in legal practice, the more likely they may be able to bring about a successful resolution to your case.
Look for information about a lawyer’s experience and ask questions during the initial meeting. It’s a good idea to ask how many years they have been practicing law and the expected outcome of your case.
An attorney can often resolve your particular legal issue faster and better than trying to do it alone. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, while avoiding costly mistakes or procedural errors. You should seek out an attorney whose practice focuses on the area of law most relevant to your issue.
Prepare for your consultation by writing down notes of your understanding of the case, jot down questions and concerns for the attorney, and gather your documents. Remember that you are trying to get a sense of whether the attorney has your trust and can help you address your legal issues. Questions should include how the attorney intends to resolve your issue, how many years he/she has been practicing law and specifically practicing in your area, as well as how many cases similar to yours the attorney has handled. It can also be helpful to broach the subject of fees so that you understand the likely cost and structure of your representation by a specific attorney and/or legal team.
The more experienced a lawyer is in legal practice, the more likely he/she will be able to bring about a successful resolution to your issue. Since experience matters, lawyers who’ve been practicing law for many years (with a successful track record) tend to be in high demand. You should look for information about a lawyer’s experience and ask questions during the initial meeting. It’s a very good idea to ask the lawyer how many years he/she has been practicing law and the expected outcome of your case.
Plaintiff – a person or party who brings a lawsuit against another person(s) or party/parties in a court of law. Private persons or parties can only file suit in civil court.
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