New York Arson Defense Lawyers
Arson is a very serious charge. Whether you are alleged to have burned down a house, a store, or a car, arson is typically considered a violent felony, exposing defendants to the harshest penalties and long-term prison sentences. If you have been arrested or charged with arson in Orange County, it is vital to get a dedicated and effective criminal defense lawyer on your side as soon as possible to avoid the worst consequences of an arson conviction. Call a seasoned arson criminal defense lawyer at Dupée & Monroe in Goshen after your arson arrest to start building your case and protecting your rights.
Elements and Degrees of Arson in New York Criminal Law
Arson is chargeable whenever someone sets a fire or causes an explosion, either intentionally or with reckless disregard for the safety of others. Arson charges are separated by degree based on the type of property damaged, the amount of damage caused, whether there was a threat of damage to other people, and whether someone else was actually injured. Fifth-degree arson is a misdemeanor, while the rest are chargeable as felonies.
The degrees of arson under New York law are as follows:
- Arson in the Fifth Degree: The defendant intentionally damaged another person’s personal property, without the consent of the owner, by starting a fire or causing an explosion.
- Arson in the Fourth Degree: The defendant recklessly damaged a building or motor vehicle by intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion.
- Arson in the Third Degree: The defendant intentionally damaged a building or motor vehicle by starting a fire or causing an explosion.
- Arson in the Second Degree: The defendant intentionally started a fire or explosion in a car or building while another person was inside, and the defendant knew there was a reasonable possibility that someone was present and at risk.
- Arson in the First Degree: The defendant intentionally started a fire or explosion in a car or building, and another person, not complicit in the crime, was seriously injured. The defendant must have known there was a reasonable possibility that someone was present.
Penalties for Arson
The penalties for arson are as follows:
- Arson in the Fifth Degree: Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
- Arson in the Fourth Degree: Class E felony, punishable by 1-15 years in prison, including a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
- Arson in the Third Degree: Class C felony, punishable by 1-15 years in prison.
- Arson in the Second Degree: Class B violent felony, punishable by a sentence of 5-25 years in prison.
- Arson in the First Degree: Class A-I felony, punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of 15-25 years to life.
If an act of arson kills a victim, then the defendant could face a lifetime prison sentence. New York abolished the death penalty in 2007, but life in prison without the possibility of parole remains a possible sentence.
Defending Against Charges of Arson in New York
Defending against arson generally involves poking holes in the evidence as to who caused a fire and whether the fire or explosion was caused intentionally. Many fires and explosions are caused by natural events such as lightning strikes, or by accidents such as a gas leak, a lightbulb breaking, an electrical malfunction, or even a misplaced candle or cigarette. The prosecution must demonstrate not only that a fire was started by the defendant, but also that the defendant intentionally or recklessly started the fire–an accident is not enough to prove arson. Additionally, depending on the charge, proving ownership of the destroyed object is a defense to arson: If no one was put in danger, a person cannot be convicted of arson for burning their own car.
Your defense attorney can also help demonstrate a lack of motive or otherwise insufficient evidence to demonstrate the cause and intent behind a fire. The prosecution has a high burden, and the simple fact that a defendant might have had the capacity to start a fire does not mean that they either were the perpetrator or that they did so intentionally. A knowledgeable attorney can also prevent the prosecution from using weak or ill-supported evidence that does not pass scientific rigor. Your seasoned defense attorney will make sure that you are not convicted based on faulty “science” not supported by the actual facts. The sooner you call a defense attorney, the sooner your lawyer can start building your strongest defense.
Help is Available for Your New York Arson Arrest
The lawyers at Dupée & Monroe have decades of experience helping people like you build the most vigorous defense possible against charges of arson. If you have been arrested for arson or other offenses in Goshen, Orange County, or anywhere in the Hudson Valley region, reach out to Dupée & Monroe, P.C., for advice and representation from experienced New York criminal defense attorneys.