What is Arson
In the State of Florida a defendant can be criminally charged with arson under Florida Statutes 806.01, arson if the defendant intentionally causes damage to a structure or its contents by fire or explosion. A person is also guilty of arson if the person unintentionally causes the damages while in the commission of a felony.
A defendant can be criminally charged with arson regardless if the structure damaged is a residential structure, or some other kind of structure. A defendant can also be criminally charged with arson by burning the contents of the structure such as clothes, furniture, or other items inside the structure. To convict someone for arson the State generally has to prove the person caused the fire or explosion intentionally, or in the commission of a felony.
Investigation of Arson
Usually when filing criminal charges for arson a structure has or will be investigated by some agency to determine if they have sufficient reason to believe the fire was caused intentionally. This is often done by the Fire Marshall, and usually involves expert witnesses to see how the fire was started. The investigation may include where the fire, and what caused it.
Arson is considered a second degree felony which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. However if someone commits an arson while the know someone is in the structure, or should have known that someone was in there, then it is an enhancement to the crime, and it becomes a felony of the first degree, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Defenses to Arson
As with all criminal charges there are a number of ways a criminal defense attorney can defend against the charge. It is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney about any defenses. Some defenses a criminal defense attorney may raise a number of defenses including the defendant did not start the fire intentionally or the defendant was not the one who started the fire. Defending against the charge of arson can often times come down to the forensic, which may include competing opinions from experts on the side of the State and Defense. Such expert testimony may include what started the fire and where it was started. As with all criminal cases defenses to the crime arson is fact specific, and generalizations should not be made about the defenses in a case.