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Arson Charges Require an Aggressive New York City Defense Lawyer

ARSON is the malicious exploding or burning of the dwelling of another or a building within the immediate surrounding space of the dwelling of another.  Modern definitions have extended the crime to apply to the burning of commercial spaces and public buildings.  In addition, many states consider the burning of any building done with the intent to defraud the building insurer as arson.  Arson is done with intent and requires evidence of criminal activity leading to the fire.  If you are under suspicion of, or have been arrested on arson charges, seek legal counsel from the best New York criminal lawyer available.

The crime of arson is known to most people as the criminal act of starting a fire and causing the subsequent damage to a building, perhaps surrounding buildings and injury to people inside or near the building.  In New York, the charge of arson is codified in §150 of the Penal Code.  In §150.00 of this statute the state has defined a “building” beyond its usual meaning as any “structure, vehicle, vehicle or watercraft used for overnight lodging of persons, or used by persons for carrying on
business therein.”

Penalties for Arson Charges

Arson is charged in five different degrees in New York and even the lowest charge, arson in the fifth degree, carries potential for jail time as a penalty.  Anyone charged with arson should obtain an experienced criminal defense attorney with expert knowledge of the New York courts to represent them, such as the Law Office of Bukh & Associates, PLLC.  The courts take this crime seriously and are not sympathetic to those possibly involved in creating a fire, especially not where people have died or are injured as a result of this fire.

The basic elements of the crime which the prosecution has to prove are the fact that there was a burning and that there was a criminal or reckless action that caused it.  There is no instance where motive is necessary, however some degrees involve intent.

Arson Attempt

Arson Charge is Among Hardest to Deal With For Attorneys

In New York the statutes are:

§150.01 Arson in the fifth

This is when the defendant intentionally causes damage to another’s property by fire or explosion.  It is a Class A misdemeanor with the highest penalty being one year in jail.

§150.05 Arson in the fourth degree

Here is the degree of arson where a person recklessly “damages a building or vehicle by starting a fire or explosion”.  The difference here is that he didn’t intend to burn the building, but knew that his activities could potentially destroy a building.  This could occur if he set fire to something close to the building, such as a trash can.   This is a Class E felony with a maximum sentence of four years in jail.

The above two degrees don’t have real case examples here because they are so often included offenses of other crimes that they have not been appealed on this level.

§150.10 Arson in the third degree

The third degree of arson is where the matter of intent to actually burn the building becomes an element of the charge.  Thus, the defendant intended to cause damage to a structure or motor vehicle, started a fire and the fire caused damage.  This is a Class C felony having a penalty of no less than 3.5 years in jail and no longer than 15 years in jail.

This case is a fire for hire case.  The defendant had a barn that needed very expensive asbestos demolition and so the fact came out at trial that he hired the person who actually started the fire and then drove him to his bus back to his home.  When the fire starter was identified, he gave evidence that he was offered $1000 by the defendant to burn the barn.  The defendant was convicted of arson in the third degree and some lesser charges and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years (with the conspiracy charges added on), oddly the actual arsonist was only sentenced to 3 to 5 years.
People v Lumnah 2011 NY Slip Op 01372 Decided on February 24, 2011

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§150.15 Arson in the second degree

Arson in the second degree has almost the same elements as third degree with the fact that the damage was intentional.  However, it becomes second degree when the defendant knew or should have suspected that a person would be in the structure at the time of the fire.  This is a Class B Felony with a penalty of no less than 5 years and no more than 25 years in jail.

This case has a scenario wherein the defendant was seeing a 16 year old girl and her parents had her move away to an apartment above a relative’s store and end the relationship.  The defendant, according to the facts stalked her there and made several attempt to discredit the relative’s store by calling health inspectors, etc.  Finally he started a fire underneath the structure with leaves and branches and lit it with a cigarette.  He then left the area with the fire continuing to burn.  This was a structure that most certainly could have had people in it and did.  He was convicted on this and other charges.
People v Hodges 2009 NY Slip Op 07693 [66 AD3d 1228]

§150.20 Arson in the second degree

As with the other degree of arson, this one builds on the one before it in that the defendant intentionally started a fire, in a place where there were people or he should have suspected that there would be people and the fire or explosion is caused by an incendiary device thrown or placed near the structure.  This degree has to cause personal injury, or it was done for financial gain such as claiming insurance on the structure.  The type of incendiary device can be the item known to most as a “molotov cocktail”.

As so often is the case with arson in the first degree, this very sad case also involves five counts of felony murder for the defendant also.  The defendant had some history of domestic violence in his relationship with his wife and family.  He was charged and convicted of killing his wife and four children in a house fire which he started.  He was convicted of five counts of felony murder and five counts of arson in the first degree.
People v Parsons 2006 NY Slip Op 04642 [30 AD3d 1071]

As can be seen by the above statutes and case examples, arson is a very serious crime.  Anyone who believes they are under suspicion of this crime or has become charged with this crime should obtain the help of a New York criminal defense attorney, immediately.  A the Law Office of Bukh & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys are experienced in this and all other areas of violent crime and have a reputation for representing our clients in the most successful way possible.  We work to get charges dropped if possible, but if not we are outstanding attorneys to have on your side at a trial.  Every client is unique to us and we are available to speak with you at any time 24 hours a day.  You should speak with an attorney before speaking with anyone else.

When facing the Arson charge in the State of New York it’s time to call the NYC defense attorneys at Law Office of Bukh & Associates, PLLC. Call us today at (800) 601-0207.

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