Arson Charges

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Phoenix Arson Lawyer

Experienced Criminal Defense for Arizona Arson Charges

Facing arson charges in Arizona can be frightening, especially with the potential for severe penalties – including hefty fines and significant prison time – looming overhead. Whether you’re accused of intentional arson or charged with reckless burning, having knowledgeable legal guidance is important.

At the Belén Law Firm, our seasoned Phoenix arson attorneys understand the gravity of these charges and are dedicated to protecting your rights, reputation, and future. With years of experience defending clients against a number of misdemeanor and felony charges in Phoenix, we’re ready to provide aggressive representation tailored to your unique situation.

If you or someone you love has been charged with the crime of arson in Phoenix, AZ, don’t delay seeking legal counsel. Schedule a free consultation with Belén Law Firm as soon as possible to discuss your case. Simply call our law firm at (602) 715-0908 or reach out online to get in touch today.

Phoenix Arson Lawyer

What is Arson?

Arson is a serious crime that involves unlawfully damaging property through fire or explosion. There are a number of reasons why someone might commit arson, ranging from negligent acts to vandalism, terrorism, revenge, or even insurance fraud. In some cases, it may even be to burn evidence and cover up the occurrence of a separate crime.

When a person knowingly sets fire to an occupied structure or property, this is considered arson. However, an arson charge isn’t contingent on whether or not someone was in the structure; it can also include actions like intentionally setting an unoccupied structure or property on fire or causing a fire through reckless burning, even if it was never intended to cause harm.

For example, if someone starts a fire in a trash can and it spreads to a nearby building, causing significant damage, they may face the charge of arson in Arizona. Another instance could be illegally setting off fireworks that lead to an explosion, damaging nearby property. Both scenarios involve unlawfully damaging property through fire or explosion, making them punishable offenses under Arizona law.  

Types of Arson Charges in Arizona

As we just mentioned, arson cases can vary based on the circumstances and intent behind the fire started. In Arizona, there are four main types of arson charges: reckless burning, arson of a structure of property, arson of an occupied structure, and burning of wildlands.

Arizona Arson Charges

Reckless Burning

Under § 13-1702 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, a person commits reckless burning when they recklessly start a fire or cause an explosion that results in damage to a structure (whether occupied or unoccupied), wildland, or property. Unlike the other types of arson charges, this offense relies on the intent – or lack thereof – behind the act. Rather than committing the act intentionally, someone charged with reckless burning committed the act as a result of recklessness or negligence. 

Reckless burning is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona.

Arson of a Structure or Property

The statutory definition of arson of a structure or property, as prescribed in ARS § 13-1703, is when a person knowingly and unlawfully damages a structure (dwelling house, commercial building, vehicle, watercraft, shed, etc.) or property (anything other than a structure that has value, such as personal property or documents) by causing a fire or explosion. 

Arson of a structure is generally charged as a Class 4 felony in AZ, whereas the penalties for arson of property depend on the value of said property. If the property’s value exceeds one thousand dollars, it is charged as a Class 4 felony. If the property was valued anywhere between $100 to $1,000, it is a Class 5 felony. Arson of property that is valued at less than $100 is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

Arson of an Occupied Structure

As you might imagine, arson of an occupied structure is considered a more serious crime in Arizona, as the potential for serious personal injury or death significantly elevates its severity. Under ARS § 13-1704, this type of arson charge occurs when a person commits arson by knowingly causing a fire or explosion that damages an occupied structure. 

Arson of an occupied structure is considered a Class 2 felony offense in Arizona, with increased penalties to reflect the gravity of the crime.

Burning of Wildlands

Burning of wildlands is another very serious offense in Arizona, outlined in § 13-1706 of the state’s criminal code. According to this statute, any person who intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes or sets a fire on any wildland (not including that individual’s own private property) and does so without the proper lawful authority may be charged with burning of wildlands. 

The law does provide some specific exceptions to this rule. For example, this offense does not apply to:

  • Open burning conducted in the course of agricultural operations;
  • Fire management operations conducted by political subdivisions;
  • Prescribed or controlled burns authorized by the state forester;
  • Lawful activities under rules adopted by state, tribal, or federal agencies; OR 
  • Fires set for cooking or warming on public lands that do not require action by a fire control agency and are not set while under a fire ban or burn restrictions. 

Violations of this section carry varying degrees of penalties. A person who acts with criminal negligence commits a Class 2 misdemeanor, while reckless actions may result in a Class 1 misdemeanor. Intentional or knowing actions that violate governmental fire regulations during extreme fire hazards constitute a Class 6 felony. And finally, if such conduct places another person in danger of death or serious injury or endangers a building or occupied structure, it is considered a Class 3 felony in Arizona

Burning of Wildlands in Arizona

Can You Go to Jail for Accidentally Starting a Fire?

Yes, you can go to jail for accidentally starting a fire, especially if it leads to significant damage or harm. Under Arizona statutes, even if the fire was not started intentionally, you can still be prosecuted for acting recklessly or with criminal negligence. 

If you accidentally started a fire, it may be easy to assume the court will forgive you since you didn’t act with the intention of committing arson. However, this is not the case, and you will likely still face criminal penalties (including potential jail time) if you start a fire by accident. As such, it’s incredibly important to have experienced legal representation on your side to advocate on your behalf and help mitigate the consequences you may be facing.

Is Arson a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

In Arizona, an arson charge may result in either a misdemeanor or felony charge depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. The prosecution will focus on the intent behind the crime and any viable evidence, such as how the fire started, in order to secure a conviction.

Generally, if a fire is intentionally set, it is charged as a felony offense. In cases where there is no intent to cause damage but rather is a result of negligence or recklessness, the arson charge is typically considered a misdemeanor. 

What is the Punishment for Arson in Arizona?

Once again, the penalties that a person charged with arson may face vary depending on the facts surrounding their case. If charged with reckless burning, the individual faces a Class 1 misdemeanor. Those facing arson of structure or property may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, Class 5 felony, or Class 4 felony, while arson of an occupied structure may lead to Class 2 felony charges. Finally, the burning of wildlands in Arizona can result in either Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor charges if done unintentionally OR Class 3 or Class 6 felony charges if done intentionally. 

Below, we’ll break down the maximum penalties for a first-offense arson charge in Arizona:

  • Class 2 Misdemeanor Arson Charge – Punishable by up to 4 months in jail, 2 years of probation, and $750 in fines
  • Class 1 Misdemeanor Arson Charge – Punishable by up to 6 months in jail, 3 years of probation, and $2,500 in fines
  • Class 6 Felony Arson Charge – Punishable by up to 1.5 years in prison (or up to 2 years with aggravating factors present)
  • Class 5 Felony Arson Charge – Punishable by up to 2 years in prison (or up to 2.5 years with aggravating factors present)
  • Class 4 Felony Arson Charge – Punishable by up to 3 years in prison (or up to 3.75 years with aggravating factors present)
  • Class 3 Felony Arson Charge – Punishable by up to 7 years in prison (or up to 8.75 years with aggravating factors present)
  • Class 2 Felony Arson Charge – Punishable by up to 10 years in prison (or up to 12.5 years with aggravating factors present)

Keep in mind that these penalties are only for first-offense, non-dangerous offenders. The presence of any historical priors and/or elements elevating the offense to a dangerous crime can significantly increase the penalties you face if convicted. 

Accidentally Starting Fire Jail Time

Why You Need a Skilled Arson Defense Attorney

Facing arson charges in Arizona is a serious matter, and if you or someone you love find yourself in this challenging situation, it’s important that you seek the help of an experienced Phoenix arson attorney as soon as possible. Navigating the various ins and outs of criminal law, particularly when it comes to obtaining evidence, building a successful defense strategy, and challenging the state’s claim head-on, demands a skilled legal professional. 

Your arson defense lawyer can analyze forensic evidence as well as a variety of other evidence to build a strong defense on your behalf, ensuring that any claims that you acted illegally are thoroughly examined and contested. 

How Belén Law Firm Can Help You Avoid an Arson Conviction

When you work with a skilled Phoenix arson defense attorney like Belén Olmedo Guerra, you equip yourself with a strong and reputable legal advocate who can help fight the charges against you and secure the most favorable outcome possible for your arson case. From leveraging thorough investigation techniques, expert witness testimonies, and proven defense strategies, Attorney Belén and her legal team know what it takes to effectively challenge the prosecution’s case. 

There are a number of possible defenses that the attorneys at Belén Law Firm might employ depending on the facts of the case, including but not limited to:

  • Challenging the Evidence: Examining whether the evidence was collected legally and if it conclusively points to arson.
  • Insufficient Proof: Highlighting the lack of concrete evidence to meet the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Alibi: Presenting evidence that the state’s case against the defendant is impossible based on the fact that they were not at the scene when the crime occurred.
  • Mistaken Identity: Arguing that the defendant was incorrectly identified as the person responsible for the arson.
  • Faulty Scientific Analysis: Questioning the validity of the forensic methods used to determine the cause of the fire.
  • Accidental Fire: Providing credible evidence that the fire was accidental and not intentionally set.
  • Violation of Constitutional Rights: Arguing that there were breaches in procedural justice, such as violation of Miranda Rights or other constitutional rights during the investigation or arrest.

Whether it’s negotiating a plea offer, fighting for reduced or dropped charges, or working to secure an acquittal, Attorney Belén and her dedicated team of Phoenix arson defense attorneys are prepared to fight for you. 

Arson Defense Attorney Phoenix

Schedule a FREE Consultation With a Phoenix Arson Defense Lawyer at Our Law Firm Today

If you are facing arson charges in Phoenix, AZ or the surrounding Maricopa County areas, securing the help of an experienced attorney can be crucial for your future. At Belén Law Firm, our Phoenix criminal attorneys are committed to providing aggressive representation to protect your rights and achieve the best outcome in your arson case. 

Don’t face these charges alone. Contact Belén Law Firm today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you fight the charges and protect your future. Call (602) 715-0908 or complete the online intake form found below to get in touch.

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