Arson Charges

Arson is generally defined as the willful and malicious act of burning the dwelling house of another person. When a house is burned, it does not have to be a total loss in order for arson charges to be filed. The act of setting fire to a dwelling can be enough to warrant arson charges. All types of homes fall under the general description of a dwelling. For example, mobile homes and recreational vehicles can be considered dwellings if they are inhabited. Inhabited homes are those where someone lives, stays, or rests.

Arson charges may be filed against an individual who is thought to have started a fire in a dwelling. It is important to note that the actual home does not have to catch fire in order for arson charges to be brought. The area around the home, known in the law as the cartilage, is also considered to be part of the dwelling. Thus, if a fire is set anywhere on another’s property, arson charges may apply.

What are the Categories of Arson?

Under the law, arson is categorized by two different degrees. First degree arson occurs when the dwelling was occupied when the fire was set. If you are charged with first degree arson, it is a Class D felony. If the home was unoccupied at the time the fire was set, the crime is second degree arson and is a Class G felony.

If the home was occupied at the time of the fire, it endangered lives, making the charges more serious. You could also face other charges if anyone was hurt or died as a result of the fire. You may also face arson charges for burning an uninhabited dwelling. In this case, the charges are not technically considered arson, but are still a Class F felony. Felony charges are serious and carry strong penalties that may include prison time, fines, and more if convicted.

In some cases, a deceased person is in the home at the time the fire is set. Although the person is not living at the time of the fire, the act is still considered arson and is charged as a first-degree felony.

Other Types of “Arson”

Technically speaking, arson charges only apply to dwellings that belong to other people and are inhabited. Therefore, buildings such as public schools, government offices, churches, and other similar structures are not included under the technical heading of arson. However, serious charges and penalties still apply. For example, wantonly and willingly burning a church is a Class E felony while burning a state, county, or other government building is a Class F felony.

The differences between the charges are mainly technical. In order for actual arson to be charged, the person must have willfully and maliciously burned a dwelling that belongs to another person.

What if Someone was Hurt in the Fire?

If someone was injured or died as a result of the fire, the person responsible could face additional charges. The law states that if a firefighter or other first responder was injured while attending to the fire, the person may be charged with a Class E felony. This applies to anyone who was responding to the burning dwelling.

What Should I do if I am Charged with Arson?

Arson or any of the related charges are serious. If convicted of a felony, you could face considerable time behind bars as well as fines and probation. A convicted felon has a more difficult time finding employment, getting into school, and securing housing, among other things. It is best to defend the charges as vigorously as possible.

If you were charged with arson, it is advisable to seek assistance from a qualified criminal law attorney as soon as possible. Do not delay because there is important evidence that may need to be reviewed. Arson charges can be complex. The first step is to review the situation with your attorney.

Your lawyer will represent you throughout the case and try to resolve it in the best way possible. In some instances, there may not be enough evidence to prove that you committed the crime. In some cases, your attorney may be able to work to reduce the charges against you. Serious charges may require that you be held in jail pending your trial. However, in certain cases your attorney may be able to have your bond reduced so you can get out of jail pending your hearing.

Your attorney will be instrumental in getting the best possible outcome for your case, especially if it goes to trial. If you were charged with arson, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. We are experienced in all types of criminal cases in the Iredell County area, including arson. Call us today at 704.370.2828 to discuss your situation with a representative at Arnold & Smith, PLLC.