Lighting fires, in many cases, isn’t such a big deal. It can be a good source of light, heat, or just something cool to gather around with good company. However, you can’t just go around and light anything on fire with no consequences. If you intentionally light a fire or cause an explosion that could endanger people’s lives or cause property damage, you’ve committed arson. Arson is a serious offense, with very severe charges.
Four Degrees of Arson
The state of New Jersey recognized four degrees of arson, with the first degree being the most serious offense. Arson in the first degree usually involves arson for hire, most often associated with insurance fraud. This is someone trying to cause property damage to cash an insurance check. First degree arson can also include when the target for arson is a house of worship, like a church or mosque. Second degree arson, or aggravated arson, applies when a person starts a fire or causes an explosion with specific intent, like:
- Knowingly places another person in danger of death or injury
- Purposely destroying another person’s building/property
- Purposely destroying/ damaging a structure in order to exempt it from any state, county, or local planning or zoning law regulation, ordinance or enactment
- Purposely acting to destroy or damage any forest.
Arson in the third degree is when a person recklessly endangers a building or person. Lastly, arson in the fourth degree is when a person has contractual or legal duty to prevent a fire, yet fails to put it out or warn others who may be in danger.
Penalties of Arson
Specific penalties of arson will depend on varying circumstances and can include incarceration, fines, or liability for the costs of emergency services to put out the fire.
- First Degree: Punishable by prison sentence of 10-20 years. If a place of worship is involved, that’s 15 years with no possibility of parole.
- Second Degree: Punishable by 5-20 years in prison.
- Third Degree: Punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
- Fourth Degree: Punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Get Proper Representation
If you’re facing arson charges, it is crucial to get a proper legal representation to defend your case. There are varying defenses to arson, such as a mistake of fact, or even intoxication. We at Catanzaro Law know and understand the legal attributes, and are prepared to defend you. We have knowledgeable, experienced attorneys who have dealt with such cases before. If you’re in need of help, don’t wait to contact us today for a free consultation, and be confident in your representative!