Few people would intentionally light or start a fire knowing that it could damage property or worse, endanger lives. However, unintentional fires do sometimes happen and you could even be accused of starting a fire that you had nothing to do with. You cannot, of course, be convicted of a crime like arson unless there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty of an offense, but without an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be intimidated enough to end up with an unjust conviction.
Arson is a serious crime
The difference between arson and an accidental fire is that the person accused of arson is alleged to have started the fire intentionally, i.e. in the full knowledge that the fire could cause property damage and loss of life. Arson is a felony offense in Florida and is categorized according to the severity of the offense.
The most serious crime of arson is a first degree felony. For prosecutors to convict someone for this offense they must be able to prove that the accused:
• Used a fire or an explosion to damage a building or its contents;
• Used fire or an explosion intentionally or during a burglary;
• Knew that the property or building had an occupant;
• Used fire to damage a dwelling or somewhere that the defendant knew could possibly have an occupant during daylight hours such as an office block.
All of the above must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction to be obtained. Penalties include a fine of up to$15,000, restitution for the value of the property damaged and a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
There may be additional crimes that the defendant could face if a person in the building was injured or killed as a result of the fire or explosion.
The next level of arson is a second degree felony. The main difference between this crime and the one above is the absence of knowledge of occupancy by a person. Like the more serious crime of first degree arson, each of the following must be established:
• The defendant used fire or an explosion to damage a building or structure;
• The defendant intentionally set out to damage the property or during the course of a burglary or other property crime.
Penalties for a conviction for this crime include a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 15 years.
There are other related statutes in Florida such as those for criminal mischief and attempted arson.
Defense against a charge of arson
An experienced criminal defense attorney, like Miami’s Albert Quirates Esq. will be able to assess the case against you and any evidence held by the prosecution. The main defense options are as follows:
• You were the cause of the fire but it was a mistake.
• You lit the fire, but there was no intention to damage any property.
• You were not the person who lit the fire or caused the fire through an explosion. It is quite possible that an eyewitness saw someone who may have resembled you, but it was not you who was involved in the fire.
You can contact the Law Firm of Albert Quirantes at 305-644-1800.
Albert Quirantes: Your Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer & DUI Lawyer
For over 30 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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If you have any questions about this or any other criminal accusation, call Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Albert Quirantes at: (305) 644-1800 or visit our homepage www.CriminalDefendant.com for a direct link to the office or a text message or a map and directions to our office.