Arson is the act of intentionally setting fire to a house, commercial building, or any other type of permanent structure. Arson is a very serious crime in that it can cause an enormous amount of damage and severe harm. The damage caused by arson can sometimes be limited to only the structure itself and items inside the structure. Other times, arson can lead to serious personal injury or even death if there are people still inside or around the structure at the time of the fire. A person committing arson is putting the lives of people at risk. This includes anyone in or around the structure and members of the fire department or police who might report to the scene. If you have been accused or charged with arson where the act led to the injury of another person or persons, then you should get in contact with a St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Here at The Law Place, our team of attorneys has over 75 years of combined experience dealing with cases just like yours. Our criminal defense lawyers have helped many people charged with similar crimes to reduce the charges against them or to even get them dropped. Call us today to arrange a free case consultation with one of our defense lawyers. This will enable you to talk through the details of your case and get personalized, free advice on your case, as well as an idea of the charges you could be facing. If, after this free case evaluation, you choose us to defend your St. Petersburg arson case, then you will be assigned a criminal defense attorney from our team. This lawyer will work tirelessly on your behalf to protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome for your case by building you a strong defense.
Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the convenience of our clients. So don’t delay. Call us today at (941) 444-4444 for a free consultation.
How Is Arson Defined in St. Petersburg, Florida?
Under Florida Statute 806.01, a person can be found guilty of arson if they have used an explosion or fire to wilfully cause damage to a building, dwelling, or structure.
If the structure is a dwelling, the accused can be charged regardless of whether it was occupied or unoccupied.
The statute details that a structure can include “any building of any kind, any enclosed area with a roof over it,” including vehicles or a portable building, such as a tent.
A person who starts a fire and causes damage to any such structure or a structure in the surrounding area can be charged with arson. This is usually a first-degree felony.
The act of arson when it causes personal injury to another person is a more serious crime. Under Florida Statute 806.031, a person can be charged with either a first- or second-degree felony for causing bodily harm to another person while committing arson. The exact penalty will depend on the details of the specific case, including the severity of damages and injuries, the criminal history of the defendant, and whether the accused had the intent to cause harm or not.
For a free legal consultation with a arson resulting in injury lawyer serving St. Petersburg, call 941-444-4444
Degrees of Arson in Florida Law
In Florida, the law makes a distinction between arson in the first degree and arson in the second degree, where each comes with different penalties. The key difference for whether you would be charged with first-degree arson or second-degree arson depends primarily on the type of dwelling that was damaged during the event. A person can be charged with first-degree arson for intentionally damages any dwelling or its contents by fire or explosion, regardless of whether the structure was occupied or not. A person can be charged with second-degree arson if the explosion or fire caused intentional damage to any structure or its contents in a place where there are usually people present or if the person in question had reason to believe it was being occupied by another person. This includes but is not limited to structures such as churches, schools, hospitals, shops, and jails. This second-degree charge is relevant regardless of whether the accused person was the owner of the property in question.
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What Penalties Could I Be Facing?
The law in Florida does not look kindly on the crime of arson, where along with a harsh stigma, a charge of this crime will almost certainly lead to a felony charge. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you could be looking at a first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree felony. The severity of the punishment for arson depends largely on the possibility of the action causing human injury. If a person commits arson in a structure that has a great chance of having a person residing inside, such as a tent, trailer, or house, then it is extremely likely that they will receive a first-degree felony charge. A person is more likely to be facing a second-degree felony if the structure has a low chance of a human living inside and therefore less chance of a person being injured.
If you already have a conviction of at least two felonies before your arson, then you are likely to be facing more severe charges. These are outlined in Florida Statute 775.084.
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Arson Resulting in Injury
If anyone was injured during the arson event, including respondents such as firefighters, then the alleged offender could face additional charges and penalties.
Some common examples of personal injury to victims caused by arson include:
- Damage to the lungs due to smoke inhalation.
- Disfigurement or disability.
- Emotional distress.
- Wrongful death.
The penalty for arson resulting in injury to another depends on the extent of harm caused. If the arson event resulted in ‘bodily harm,’ then the defendant can expect a first-degree misdemeanor. This charge is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500.
If the arson event resulted in ‘great bodily harm,’ ‘permanent disability,’ or ‘permanent disfigurement,’ then the likely charge is a second-degree felony. This degree of felony comes with a punishment of up to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Unlike most criminal offenses, which usually require there to have been the intent to commit a crime, ‘Arson resulting in Injury to Another’ is a separate offense to regular arson charges, and a person can be charged with this even if the arsonist did not intend to inflict harm on anyone. This is what is known as a ‘strict liability’ crime. There is also no double jeopardy prohibition, in this case, meaning that a person can be convicted of both offenses, even if both resulted from the same arson crime event. If you are facing charges for arson resulting in injury, you should contact a reputable law firm such as ours as soon as possible to give you the best chance of reducing or even eliminating the charges against you.
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Applicable Jury Instructions
For a person to be found guilty of arson resulting in injury offense, the following must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant damaged or caused to be damaged a structure or its contents alleged by fire or explosion.
- The damage was done willfully and unlawfully, or the damage was caused while the defendant was committing another crime.
- The structure was a dwelling, or the arson was during normal hours of occupancy for the structure, or the structure was a place where persons are normally present.
- Where applicable, the defendant knew or had reasonable grounds to believe the structure was occupied by a human being.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to build your defense strategy according to the details of your case, for example, by helping you to prove that you did not intend to start the fire or that you were wrongly identified as the culprit.
Possible Defenses for Arson
Your best chance of having a solid defense against a charge of arson, regardless of the circumstances of the event, is to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact The Law Place today to speak to one from our team. They will be able to go through the details of your case with you and the probable charges you could face. If you choose to continue working with us, your allocated criminal defense lawyer will be able to work closely with you in order to build the strongest possible defense. The defense strategy will vary according to the specifics of your case, but some defenses that have been used against arson successfully in the past include:
- The assertion that the fire was not started on purpose.
- If you have an alibi, or if it can be proved that you were wrongly identified, then you may be able to get the charges dropped completely.
- The assertion that it was another person who started the fire.
- The assertion that the fire was, in fact, started by an accident or an electrical fault.
- The assertion that the evidence being used against you is in some was invalid or incorrect or was obtained unlawfully.
- If it can be proved that the forensic analysis obtained at the scene is inaccurate, then you could have your charges reduced or dropped.
Our defense lawyers have helped countless clients just like you to prove their innocence with a strong defense. It could involve one or more of the strategies above, or other strategies, depending on the specifics of your case. Call us today for a free case evaluation to see how we can help you.
What a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Do for You in St. Petersburg, Florida
If you are facing charges of arson resulting in injury, we understand how stressful this can be for you and your family. A criminal defense lawyer can help you to navigate the intimidating process of a criminal conviction so that you don’t have to face the justice system alone. We are here to help, and with over 75 years of combined experience dealing with cases just like yours, working alongside us is your best chance of reducing or even dropping the charges against you.
Call us today to arrange a free case evaluation with one of our criminal defense attorneys. They will be able to answer any questions you have and give advice specific to your case. If, after this initial session, you decide to continue working with us, you will be allocated a criminal defense lawyer to work alongside you for the duration of the process. With an in-depth knowledge of the laws in Florida related to arson and experience in building defense strategies for similar charges, you can be assured that your defense attorney will work tirelessly to support you and defend you at every stage. If your case goes to court, your attorney will support you throughout the whole procedure.
Here at The Law Place, we are very upfront about the cost of our services.
Contact The Law Place Today
The laws in Florida can be unforgiving, particularly with cases of arson resulting in injury. If you are facing such charges, the best thing you can do is to call a reputable criminal defense attorney. One of our defense lawyers will be happy to answer your questions and give you advice regarding your case, and if you choose to work with us, they will work tirelessly to defend your rights and fight for the best possible outcome. So what are you waiting for?
Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call now on (941) 444-4444.
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