Federal Arson Charges in New York City: Penalties and Defenses
Arson is a very serious crime that involves intentionally and maliciously setting fire to or burning property. Unlike arson laws in many states, federal arson laws apply to a wide range of properties and structures, not just dwellings or buildings. If you are facing federal arson charges in New York City, it is critical that you understand the potential penalties you may be facing as well as possible defenses that could help reduce or even dismiss the charges.
Federal Laws Regarding Arson
There are several federal statutes that relate to arson crimes:
- 18 U.S.C. § 81 – Arson within special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States
- 18 U.S.C. § 844(f) – Maliciously damaging or destroying any building, vehicle, or other property owned or possessed by an institution that receives federal financial assistance
- 18 U.S.C. § 844(i) – Arson involving any property used in interstate or foreign commerce
The penalties for federal arson depend on the specific circumstances of the crime. Section 844(f) carries up to 20 years in prison while section 844(i) carries a minimum of 5 years up to 20 years in prison. If death results from the arson, the minimum sentence increases to 7 years up to life in prison.
Federal arson laws are extremely broad and apply to virtually all structures and property, such as apartment buildings, restaurants, office buildings, and vehicles. Even a small home-based business could trigger federal jurisdiction under the interstate commerce clause.
Penalties for Federal Arson in New York City
If you are convicted of a federal arson charge in New York City, the penalties can be severe depending on the circumstances of the crime:
- For a basic federal arson charge with no injuries or death, you may face 5-20 years in federal prison
- If serious bodily injury results, the penalty jumps to 7-40 years in prison
- If death results from the arson, you may face up to life imprisonment or even the death penalty
In addition to imprisonment, you will also face substantial fines up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization. The judge will also order you to pay restitution to compensate victims for any losses or damages.
Your sentence will depend on factors like your criminal history, the extent of damages and injuries, and whether you accept responsibility. But federal sentencing guidelines provide very harsh recommended sentences even for first-time offenders.
Defenses to Federal Arson Charges
While the penalties for federal arson are clearly severe, experienced criminal defense attorneys can often mount an aggressive defense to get charges reduced or even dismissed. Some possible defenses include:
- You did not act intentionally or maliciously – For a federal arson conviction, prosecutors must prove you acted intentionally and with malice. If the fire was accidental or set negligently without intent to cause damage, it may not qualify as arson.
- The building did not impact interstate commerce – For charges under 18 U.S.C. 844(i), the government must prove the building or property was used in or affected interstate commerce. Your attorney may argue the connection to interstate commerce was too remote.
- You had no involvement in the arson – If you were wrongly accused or there is insufficient evidence connecting you to the crime, your attorney can argue for dismissal.
- You were entrapped – If government agents improperly induced or coerced you into committing arson, this may provide grounds for dismissal.
- Your rights were violated – If the police violated your rights by using unlawful searches or coercive interrogations, your lawyer can seek to suppress damaging evidence.
Sentencing Considerations in Federal Arson Cases
If you are convicted of federal arson charges, there are several factors that may help reduce your sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines:
- Accepting responsibility for your actions
- Providing substantial assistance to prosecutors
- Having a minor role in the arson offense
- Having limited criminal history points
- Providing restitution to victims
The experienced federal arson lawyers at My Firm have helped numerous clients facing arson charges get sentences well below the federal guidelines. We will thoroughly analyze every aspect of your case to build the strongest possible defense.
Our Firm Defends Clients Against All Arson Charges
Dealing with a federal arson investigation can be an extremely frightening and stressful experience. But you do not have to go through it alone. The defense attorneys at My Firm have represented clients facing arson charges in New York City and throughout the country.
We will carefully examine the evidence and work tirelessly to protect your rights at every stage. With extensive experience in federal courts, we understand how to effectively negotiate with prosecutors and challenge the government’s case.
Don’t leave your future in the hands of the federal government. Contact our New York City office at [phone] for a free case evaluation and to discuss how we can fight the charges against you. Our firm provides strong legal representation to clients facing all types of arson charges.
Frequently Asked Questions About Federal Arson Charges
Being investigated or charged with a federal crime can be an overwhelming experience. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about federal arson charges:
What types of properties can trigger federal arson charges?
Federal arson laws are extremely broad under the interstate commerce clause. Almost any property that affects interstate commerce could lead to federal charges, such as rental properties, restaurants, office buildings, hotels, and vehicles used for interstate transport. Even a small home-based business may qualify.
What is the difference between state and federal arson laws?
Unlike state laws which focus on dwellings and buildings, federal arson laws encompass damage to virtually any type of property, including vehicles and structures with even tenuous connections to interstate commerce. Penalties also tend to be harsher in federal cases.
Will I be charged in both state and federal court?
It is possible to be charged with both state and federal arson crimes based on the same incident since they are separate sovereigns. However, this is not very common since most cases proceed in just one jurisdiction.
What sentence can I expect if convicted?
It depends on the specifics, but you are facing 5-20 years for a basic arson conviction. If serious injuries or death occur, sentences quickly jump up to 25 years to life in prison. Judges follow federal sentencing guidelines which typically recommend stiff punishments.
Will I be released on bail?
Many federal arson suspects are detained without bail under the Bail Reform Act based on the serious nature of the charges. But an experienced attorney may be able to argue for bail or bond to allow your release during the case.
What kinds of plea bargains are available in arson cases?
Prosecutors will often agree to drop the arson charges in exchange for a guilty plea on lesser charges like destruction of property or providing information about others involved. Quick acceptance of responsibility also helps reduce sentences.
If you are facing investigation or charges for federal arson crimes, please call our office today to schedule a free case assessment. Our firm has successfully defended clients against complex arson charges in New York and nationwide.