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Arson is aggressively prosecuted due to the potential to destroy buildings and kill occupants. An arson conviction may include harsh penalties such as a lengthy prison sentence. If you are facing arson allegations, criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer may be able to fight for you and protect you from the consequences of these charges. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call (215) 712-1212 today.
The Penalties for Arson in Pennsylvania Can be Severe
Pennsylvania law defines arson as when someone “intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion, or if he/she aids, counsels, pays or agrees to pay another to cause a fire or explosion, whether on his/her own property or on that of another” and satisfies one of the following two conditions:
- He or she recklessly places another person at risk of suffering bodily injury or death, including placing a firefighter, police officer, paramedic, or another type of first responder at risk; or
- He or she sets the fire with the intent of destroying or damaging an occupied structure or home.
Thus, arson charges cover a very specific type of conduct, not simply that a person started a fire. Rather, arson refers to conduct where the individual has the intent to destroy things or places others in danger. Arson in either of these circumstances is a first-degree felony. It is essential to note that if a person commits arson that leads to the death of another person, he or she can also be charged with second-degree murder.
When arson endangers property but does not impact a person, it is possible to face second-degree felony charges. When a person engages in “reckless burning or exploding” of property, he or she can face third-degree felony charges. Charges for reckless burning could apply when a person intentionally starts or brings about a fire in an unoccupied building or risks destroying property worth more than $5,000.
People can also face charges for failing to report a dangerous fire, possessing certain explosive or incendiary materials, or engaging in “dangerous burning.” Since these terms are vague and could be so broadly applied, police and prosecutors may frequently charge this crime when it doesn’t actually apply. Therefore, it’s very important to have an attorney review your case; if the charges don’t fit the conduct, the case should be dismissed. Getting your case dismissed might take the skills of an attorney who can argue the case before a judge and a prosecutor.
Arson and Insurance Fraud Allegations
Arson is sometimes charged in connection with an insurance fraud scheme. Sometimes, people destroy their own property in an attempt to collect insurance money. Many times, they make these fires look like accidents in the hope that their insurance company will pay them for the damage. This is partly why the crime of arson can apply even if you own the property.
Police and prosecutors may work hard to explain the motive for setting a fire and may try to tie the crimes to missed bills, outstanding payments, or a failing business. In most scenarios, the timing is merely coincidental. In at least some situations, however, the police and prosecutors may come to suspect that the fire was set as part of a plan or scheme. When you face suspicions, allegations, and circumstantial evidence pointing to intentional losses as part of an insurance fraud scheme, you could face multiple criminal charges.
If you have been accused of committing arson in Pennsylvania, you likely face charges that include large fines and the potential for a lengthy state prison sentence. You should seek the representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
If You’ve Been Accused of Arson, OUr Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
To schedule a free and confidential consultation with arson defense attorney Lauren Wimmer, call today.