4 Things You Did Not Know About Arson Charges In Florida
To start, there is one thing that might surprise you: According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), police make just 250 arrests for arson every year – making these cases quite rare within the criminal justice system. The criminal code defines arson as the intentional use of fire or explosives to damage a structure, and there are two types of arson depending upon the nature of the building. Both versions are felonies, so you can expect serious punishment and collateral consequences if convicted.
However, beyond this general summary, there are some details you should be aware of even if you already retained a Fort Lauderdale arson lawyer. The following information will shed some light on the charges and help you understand what to expect after being arrested for arson in Florida.
- Occupation is the Key: Of the two forms of arson, the more serious offense involves conduct that has the potential to do the most harm: Buildings that are or could have humans inside. You might be arrested for First Degree Arson for setting fire to:
- A dwelling;
- A structure where individuals are regularly present; or,
- Any structure that you know or should reasonably know is occupied by human beings.
If the building does not meet one of these criteria, Second Degree Arson charges apply.
- Penalties for a Conviction: First Degree Arson is also a First Degree Felony, punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The lesser crime is a Second Degree Felony, for which a judge could order up to 15 years’ incarceration and a maximum fine of $5,000.
When the prosecutor’s proof is weak, it may be possible to enter into a plea agreement for criminal mischief. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor in some cases, so the jail term and fines are greatly reduced.
- Many Parties May Be Investigating: Whenever an insurance company receives a homeowner’s claim for fire damages, the claims adjuster will conduct a meticulous investigation to determine the causes. Some individuals accused of arson are surprised to learn that the insurer often shares the results of the probe with law enforcement. You might have exercised your right to remain silent in dealings with police, but now they have access to what you held back.
- Arson Arrests Often Lead to Fraud Charges: After reviewing #2, you can probably guess how one form of misconduct can easily lead to additional problems. By filing a claim with your insurer, in which you swear that your statements are true, you could be committing insurance fraud.
Trust Your Florida Arson Defense Attorney for Legal Details
It is helpful to review some facts you didn’t know about arson charges, but this summary does not provide the specifics you need to fight the allegations. Instead of putting your rights at risk, trust an experienced criminal defense lawyer for legal help. To learn how we can help, please contact attorney Kevin J. Kulik to set up a consultation at our Fort Lauderdale, FL offices.