What is First-Degree Arson?
This is the highest degree of arson that can be committed. A simple definition of the charge is when someone intentionally starts a fire or an explosion of some kind to destroy a building, materials or a home. Arson is a crime that can sometimes be hard to charge as there are times when the defendant is hard to locate. Evidence is sometimes burned in the fire, and there are times when there is no clear indication of fingerprints or other identifying marks of the defendant left at the scene of the crime.
In order for the charge of first-degree arson to hold, there needs to be evidence that the crime committed was intentional. The defendant would need to know and understand that a fire or explosion that was set would cause damage. An aggravating circumstance is another element that the prosecution will look for when seeking arson charges. When the result of the fire and the intent of the fire is to cause harm or severe damage, then it’s considered first-degree in most locations. This would mean that the overall intent is malicious when starting the fire. One of the things that the prosecution will look at is whether the defendant has made threats in the past about setting a fire or has a history of crimes involving a fire. There are times when the defendant might feel that there was no intent when the fire started and claim that it was an accident. If there is any kind of injury, then the prosecution will look to seek an arson charge whether the intent was present or not. The focus of the arson charge is the harm that could be present to someone who is in the building or who is in the outside area. The type of property can also be a factor in first-degree arson. If the building is a church, school or home that is occupied, then a first-degree charge is more likely than a lesser degree.
Examples Of First-Degree Arson
When someone needs or wants money, that person might set fire to a home in order to collect the insurance money. This would be an example of malicious intent. Another example of arson would be setting fire to a home to terrorize or threaten the people who are inside or even those who live in the home as they would see the destruction when they return. If a fire is set with the intention to harm someone or cause the death of someone or an animal, then this would be considered arson. Setting a fire in a wooded area where a large amount of land would burn would also be charged as arson.
A NYC criminal attorney will often challenge the prosecution to prove that there was an intent with the starting of the fire. At times, the defendant might admit to starting the fire but claim that there wasn’t an intent to cause any real damage or injury. An example would be someone who sets a fire to a house over the Fourth of July holiday. The intent might not have been there, but a home or building in the area might have been destroyed because of a bottle rocket or another type of explosive landing on a roof or on the ground close to the building. The defense would be that the fire was accidental.