Property damage caused by an explosion or setting it on fire falls under arson law. Vehicles, commercial buildings, residential buildings, and watercraft that can be used for business or lodging are considered property structures. In New York, there are a total of five degrees that an arson crime can fall under depending on the severity of circumstances. Arson in the second degree is a serious charge that could lead to a prosecution in the following circumstances:
A. An individual deliberately starts a fire or causes an explosion that damages a building,
B. There is at least one person in the vehicle or building at the time the fire or explosion occurs, and
C. The individual that set the fire was aware that there was a person inside the vehicle or building.
1. A young man is abruptly fired while working his shift at a local fast food restaurant, and he makes the decision to retaliate against his former employer. He sets a fire inside a lobby trashcan before walking out of the establishment, and it is extinguished before workers or patrons are harmed. Although the defendant in this case didn’t hurt the people inside the building, his actions would be considered arson in the second degree. Not only was the fire set deliberately, but the defendant was aware of other people inside the establishment.
2. In 2011, People v. Hendricksen lead to a second degree arson conviction on defendant Pierre Hendricksen. He was accused of intentionally setting fire to a mattress in the basement apartment of his ex-wife. It’s reasonable to believe that an apartment building would always have occupants, with no exception to the day that Hendricksen started the fire. The conviction of arson in the second degree in this case was based on knowledge of building occupancy at the time that the fire was set.
New York Penal Law 150.15 Sentencing
Arson in the second degree in the state of New York is a major crime, classified as a class B felony. If convicted, you could face a maximum of 25 years in prison upon a review of the circumstances. Second degree arson is often considered a violent felony offense that carries a minimum of 5 years, even for an individual with no prior convictions.
Constructing a Defense
One of the most important parts of fighting a second degree arson charge is proving that the defendant wasn’t aware that the building was occupied. It must be proven within a reasonable doubt that the defendant has reason to believe that the vehicle or building was empty at the time that the fire was started. In addition, an attorney may find it best to prove that the fire or explosion was not caused intentionally by the defendant.
Consult Our NYC Criminal Attorneys
Arson in the second degree is a major felony charge that could lead to many years in prison if convicted. With your freedom on the line, you need a team of defense attorneys that will take the case seriously. Our lawyers care about the future of all clients, and we build every single case with the attention that it deserves. If you’ve been accused of arson in the second degree, we offer a free consultation to give you the opportunity to see how we can help you move forward.