Arson Defense Lawyers

Arson is a serious criminal charge in North Carolina. Some house fires are truly accidental. Perhaps someone leaves the stove or an appliance on when they go to sleep. Typically, if fire officials suspect foul play, they will launch a police and fire department investigation. Or, when the business or homeowners file a homeowner’s insurance claim, an insurance investigation will take place into the cause of the fire. When a building, office, or house fire is an intentional act, prosecutors will file arson charges as soon as they have a suspect.

Fires are Incredibly Common in North Carolina

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, over 1.3 million fires took place in the U.S. in 2018. Over 15,000 people suffered injuries from fires and over 3,650 people died in fires. Fires caused an astounding $25.6 billion in damages in 2018. The top causes for residential building fires including cooking, heating, unintentional/careless fires, and fires due to an electrical malfunction. The main cause of fatal residential building fires was carelessness. Over 13.9% of all fatal residential building fires are still under investigation.

North Carolina Arson Law

North Carolina criminal law recognizes two different degrees of severity for the crime of arson. North Carolina recognizes first-degree arson and second-degree arson. First-degree arson occurs when the burned building or dwelling was occupied by people. First-degree arson is a Class D felony in North Carolina. Class D felonies are punishable by anywhere from 28 to 160 months in prison.

In a second-degree arson charge, the building or dwelling does not need to be occupied. Second-degree arson is considered a Class G felony for sentencing purposes. Second-degree arson is not as serious as first-degree arson in terms of sentencing. Class G felonies are punishable by anywhere from eight to 36 months in prison.

To be charged with arson in North Carolina, you must be accused of burning a dwelling. Dwellings include the following:

  • Houses
  • Mobile homes
  • Manufactured-type housing
  • Recreational trailers
Burning of Public Buildings Charges in North Carolina

Setting fire to certain state-owned buildings constitutes a unique arson crime in North Carolina. Willfully setting fire to or burning the following buildings is a Class F felony in North Carolina:

  • The State Capitol
  • The Legislative Building
  • The Justice Building
  • Any building owned or occupied by the State or any country, town, incorporated city, or other governmental or quasi-governmental entity.

Class F felonies are punishable by 10 to 41 months in prison.

Burning of Certain Buildings is a Class F Felony in North Carolina

Willfully setting fire to or burning the following buildings will also result in a serious Class F felony charge in North Carolina:

  • Uninhabited house
  • Stable
  • Coach house
  • Outhouse
  • Warehouse
  • Office
  • Shop
  • Mill
  • Barn
  • Granary
  • Any building, structure, or erection used or intended to be used in carrying on a trade or manufacture
Burning of Churches and Certain Other Religious Buildings and Buildings in Construction

Willfully burning any church, chapel or meetinghouse is a Class E felony in North Carolina. That crime is punishable by 15 to 63 months in prison. Willfully burning or setting fire to a building that is in the process of construction is also a Class H felony, punishable by four to 25 months in prison.

Burning of Boats, Personal Property and of Other Buildings

Willfully setting fire to any boat, barge, ferry or float, without the consent of the owner is a Class H felony. Willfully setting fire to or burning personal property with the intent to prejudice or injure the insurer is punished as a Class H felony. If the building in question does not fit into one of the categories mentioned already, there is a catch-all law. When any person willfully sets fire to or burns a building not covered by the other provisions of the law, prosecutors can bring Class H felony arson charges.

Our Arson Defense Lawyers can Help

As you can see, arson is taken seriously in our state. Felony arson charges are incredibly serious and many come with a prison sentence of over one year. It is important to mount a successful defense when you are fighting a North Carolina arson charge.

After investigating the facts of your case, the lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help you develop a strategy. You may be able to argue that you did not intentionally set a building on fire, or that you were not at the location of the fire at all. Let our lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, evaluate your case. Call us now at 704-370-2828 to speak with our lawyers to explore your legal options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.