What is an Arson Crime?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

arsonArson is a serious crime that often carries civil and criminal penalties. It is defined as the willful and malicious burning of property.

Arson is committed in numerous ways, and for a variety of reasons. For instance, one motivation can be to create a fire in order to collect on insurance claims. People have been known to set fires to public land, purposely burn motor vehicles, and set private residences aflame. Regardless of the innocence or guilt factor behind these acts, they are extremely costly and carry a significant risk of death and injury.

The injuries in an arson case can be catastrophic, and leave victims permanently disfigured. Therefore, the law looks to discourage this behavior by categorizing arson crimes as felonies and misdemeanors.

Arson vs Aggravated Arson

If you are arrested for setting a fire you can be charged with arson, or the prosecution may seek aggravated arson. These crimes are not the same; therefore, it is imperative that you understand the key differences.

Aggravated arson is the willful and malicious intent of creating damage to property with explosions or fire. To be charged with aggravated arson, you must purposely set fire to specific property types, including:

  • Bridges
  • Airplanes
  • Public or private buildings
  • Utility lines
  • Pipelines
  • Railways

Aggravated arson is treated as a second-degree felony.

Simple arson, on the other hand, is the malicious or willful start of a fire, but it includes regular structures – such as residences, fencing, signage, assets owned by another person, and other structures where the owner could collect insurance.

Arson, depending on the value of the property damaged, is typically charged as a misdemeanor.

The Harsh Penalties of Arson

Arson comes with harsh penalties – and not just from the criminal courts. You will also be ordered to repay the victim for their losses in the form of restitution. Also, the victim could sue you in civil court for property damage and injuries.

While it is a property crime, do not assume a property crime charge would not result in a permanent criminal record or jail time.

Penalties for arson include:

  • Fines – You could pay fines instituted by the court over and above victim restitution, attorney’s fees, or regular court costs (such as filing fees).
  • Victim Restitution – As part of your sentence, the judge may order that you pay the victim restitution for losses such as property damage.
  • Jail or Prison – You could spend several months or years in jail, depending your charges and the extent of the damages causes. A felony carries harsher jail sentences than misdemeanors.
  • Civil Lawsuit Penalties – In addition to criminal charges, the victim of your crime may file an injury claim against you. While personal injury claims are handled in civil (as opposed to criminal) court, if you are convicted in criminal court that conviction may be used to prove the civil case – and the civil case can result in judgments of thousands of dollars.

Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you or a loved one was arrested for an arson crime, do not consider these minor property crimes. The penalties and long-term consequences of an arson conviction are harsher than you realize. Therefore, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices immediately.

Schedule your free case evaluation at 505-375-4763 or request more information online.