Arizona Arson Charges and Defense Scenarios
In most states, arson is a serious criminal offense. In Arizona, arson is a felony. It is defined as a crime that occurs whenever a person damages property or a structure through fire or an explosion. The act has to be willful and deliberate for it to be considered a criminal offense.
Arizona Arson Laws
Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1703 and 13-1704 discuss arson and the legal consequences that an arsonist will face in the event of being found guilty.
According to A.R.S. 13-1703, arson is classified as a Class 4 felony in most cases. There are two exceptions – arson of a structure and the arson of property worth less than 100 dollars. The first one will be classified as a Class 4 felony and the second offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
A.R.S. 13-1704 deals with the arson of an occupied structure. The law defines an occupied structure as one that has one or more humans present in it or near it (in close proximity that may result in danger). The arson of an occupied structure is a Class 2 felony.
Keep in mind that the burning of wildlands is also considered criminal activity in Arizona. Provisions for the criminalization of this type of arson are available in A.R.S. 13-1706. Whenever criminal negligence is involved, the burning of wildlands is a Class 2 misdemeanor. If the arson occurs recklessly, it will be a Class 1 misdemeanor and the intentional burning of wildlands is elevated to a Class 6 felony.
The Consequences and Penalties for Arson
Class 4 felonies carry a minimum prison sentence of 18 months. There will also be financial consequences in the form of a fine.
A Class 5 felony carries a prison sentence of at least nine months.
Whenever arson of an occupied structure occurs, the Class 2 felony will carry a sanction of at least four years in prison. In such instances, the arsonist may face additional criminal charges for the injuries or death resulting from their actions.
The Class 1 misdemeanor charges resulting from the burning of wildlands carry the following sanctions: a maximum sentence of six months in prison, a fine of 2,500 dollars and three years of probation. Class 2 misdemeanor offenses carry sanctions of a maximum prison sentence of four months, a probation of two years and a fine of 750 dollars.
As you can see, the penalties are determined by whether the arson was intentional or unintentional and by the scope of the damages. All of these will have to be established through the collection of evidence, witness interviews and even the testimonies of experts.
The Importance of Adequate and Aggressive Defense
Arson charges can change your life forever. Not only will you have to face the immediate consequences, a criminal record will also be created. This criminal record will impact your life in the long-run, including your chances to find gainful employment in the future.
An Arizona criminal defense lawyer will have to prove that even though a fire occurred, there was no intent on behalf of their client to cause it. If there is enough evidence, an attorney is going to argue that their client did not start the fire at all.
If this type of defense isn’t possible, the investigative process and the work of the prosecution will be challenged.
The attorney will examine every step of the way, determining whether the rights of their client have been violated. The improper administration of Miranda Rights during the arrest and denial of counsel are common violations that can be used in arson cases. Police intimidation and forensic process omissions will also be addressed by experienced criminal defense lawyers.
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