Arson is a criminal offense in Florida that involves causing damage to property by fire. It falls under Florida Statute 806.01. Arson is defined as an act that willfully and unlawfully causes damage to a dwelling or structure by means of fire or explosion. Arson can be either a first degree or second-degree offense and can carry different penalties depending on the circumstances surrounding each case. Aggravated arson is a first-degree offense that involves structures where people are present. In some situations, arson crimes may be prosecuted federally. When this occurs, it is critical that you have an experienced Naples or Fort Lauderdale arson defense attorney on your side. Federal arson charges can lead to prison sentences that are decades long and accompanied by steep fines and other severe penalties.
If you have been charged with arson crimes or believe charges of allegations of this nature may be brought against you, retaining an experienced attorney may be your best move. At Joffe Law, P.A., our attorneys have decades of experience defending clients of many different criminal charges, including crimes relating to arson. We understand that each case is unique and must be treated with attentiveness and care. Our firm is dedicated to protecting your rights and freedoms throughout the entire criminal prosecution process. Below, we will explain how arson is defined and what activities constitute acts of criminal arson.
In Florida, First Degree Arson is a First Degree Felony that involves an act of intentional damage to a structure or property by means of fire or explosive damage. Usually, for arson to be considered a First Degree Felony crime, the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime will involve the presence of other individuals in a structure. First Degree Arson charges may also be applied to individuals who commit criminal arson on federal property, whether or not other individuals are present. First Degree Arson that is prosecuted federally may mean that sentences and penalties are doubled. This is because crimes on federal property may be prosecuted at both state and federal levels simultaneously. When this happens, individuals may be subject to double jeopardy. If you believe that you have committed criminal arson at a federal level, contacting an renowned federal criminal attorney in Fort Lauderdale or Naples like David Joffe may be your best option.
Second Degree Arson is a Second Degree Felony in the state of Florida. To constitute a charge of Second Degree Arson, the accused must set a fire intentionally to a structure or dwelling with the intent of causing damage. In most cases, Second Degree Arson does not involve the presence of other individuals. For the most part, the circumstances surrounding acts of alleged arson will determine whether it is a second degree of a first-degree felony offense.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
There are many possible defenses and mitigation strategies for individuals who have been accused of arson in Naples and Fort Lauderdale. If the property that has been damaged is your own property, charges of arson will often be dropped as long as the property was not intentionally damaged in an attempt to claim insurance money or as a way to defraud a mortgage company in some way. Additionally, the fire must also not be set with a criminal motive that is spiteful, vengeful, or in any way malicious. Only an experienced Fort Lauderdale arson lawyer can help you create a competent mitigation or defense strategy. Counsel will be able to look at the unique circumstances surrounding an alleged arson crime and help you decide what the best move will be.
Penalties for crimes of arson may vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime.
First-degree arson penalties
First Degree Arson is a felony in the state of Florida. Under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, it is assigned a Level 7 offense severity ranking.
It is punishable by:
- up to thirty (30) years in prison
- Up to thirty (30) years of probation
- Up to a $10,000 fine
Second-degree arson penalties
Second Degree Arson is a Second Degree Felony in the state of Florida. Under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, it is also assigned a Level 7 offense severity ranking.
It is punishable by:
- up to fifteen (15) years in prison
- Up to fifteen (15) years of probation
- Up to a $10,000 fine
When grounds for a downward departure sentence are present, arson penalties may be lessened. Only your lawyer can tell you accurately what your sentence will most likely be. Experienced legal professionals are familiar with the local judges and other important officials. They will usually know how each criminal act is penalized in your area.
Defining a structure and aggravating circumstances
Understanding how a structure is defined in an arson criminal case is important. A structure is defined very broadly in the state of Florida. Florida laws state that a structure is any building that has an enclosed area and a roof. It also considers any real property, tent, or portable building to be a structure. Other possible structures include vehicles, vessels, watercraft housing areas or crafts, or aircraft structures like aircraft hangers and airplanes.
Additionally, arson may be subject to aggravating circumstances that can make it a First Degree Arson Offense. If the property that is damaged is occupied at the time that an act of criminal arson occurs, offenders may be charged with First Degree Arson. Additionally, when arson occurs that causes damage to structures like churches, jails, or malls where people are usually present, first degree charges are also likely. This means that even if the structure is void of people at the time, since these structures may be occupied regularly, arson charges become more serious.
Arson defense attorneys your side
At Joffe Law, P.A., we understand that your case is unique. a Fort Lauderdale or Naples arson defense attorney stands ready to devote the time and attention that your individual circumstances demand. If you are in Broward County or any of the surrounding areas, Joffe Law, P.A. is ready to help you protect your rights. Keep in mind that the sooner you contact a defense lawyer, the better the outcome of your case will likely unfuold.