Major crimes tend to fall into one of two categories. Crimes committed in passion, and crimes committed for money. Often, those two categories can overlap and describe the same offense. For example, people often commit murder in the heat of passion, while others commit the same crime to recover insurance money or as part of another financial scheme. Crimes like burglary and grand theft typically fall under the “financial crimes” umbrella. Whereas crimes like battery or stalking usually fall squarely in the crimes of passion category.
One offense that can easily be considered a financial crime or a crime of passion, depending on the circumstances, is arson. Arson is often characterized as a crime committed by home or business owners against their own property. The idea is that the property owner will set the building ablaze because it is difficult to deduce the exact reason for a fire, making it difficult to pin an arson on a business owner. The property owner will then attempt to collect insurance money, often from a failing business. On the other hand, arson committed as a crime of passion is a particularly nefarious way to inflict damage on another person’s property or even harm someone. Either way, arson is a particularly serious offense, and if you have been charged, you should not hesitate to contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney.Elements of Arson
Arson as described by Florida Statute 806.01 prohibits any person from willfully and unlawfully causing damage by fire or explosion to any dwelling or structure. The statute is further broken down to distinguish between types of structures. For example, arson involving a dwelling or a home is considered a first degree arson. First degree arson also includes the damage by fire of any structure within which people are normally present, such as churches, prisons, jails, hospitals, businesses, or schools. First degree arson is a first degree felony, which can be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Second degree arson, a still serious offense, typically applies to the arson of structures that are not typically occupied. Abandoned buildings, or structures that are not usually occupied by human beings, are the types of buildings associated with second degree arson. Second degree arson is a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. Whether charged with second degree or first degree arson, the potential penalties are stiff. Along with jail or probation, if you are found guilty of arson, you will likely also need to worry about restitution payments for the damage caused by the arson. Because arson typically targets homes and businesses, restitution could be substantial. For these reasons, you should not hesitate to contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer for a consultation.Defenses to Arson
Arson is a crime that is taken very seriously by police and prosecutors. For that reason, you should always speak to a lawyer if you come under investigation. The one thing about fire is that it has the potential to leave a great swathe of destruction in its path. This tends to destroy a lot of evidence, yet police will often have suspects in mind. Because of this, arson investigations often turn to interviews of the suspected parties, such as the owners of the damaged property or people who would have an interest in damaging the property. For these reasons, it is important to consult a lawyer to preserve your rights. The strongest pieces of evidence unfortunately often come from admissions from the defendant that could have been avoided simply by speaking to an attorney who would assert their rights and prevent police interrogation. Arson can also be defended by providing evidence that the fire was just as likely caused by an accident as a purposeful crime.Speak to Our Lawyers
The lawyers at Hanlon Law are ready and able to defend your case. Don’t hesitate to call us today at 727.289.0222.