NYC Arson Lawyer Cody Warner Explains Arson Charges in New York
Arson is a serious crime that prosecutors aggressively prosecute. If you are facing arson charges, NYC arson lawyer Cody Warner will explain your options and develop a comprehensive legal strategy for your case.
How is Arson Defined Under New York Law?
Arson is a crime involving the intentional destruction of property by fire or an explosion. There are five degrees of arson under New York law. Working with an experienced NYC arson lawyer is essential to make sure that your rights are protected and you get the best possible outcome.
New York’s arson laws are broad. Under New York law, arson can include buildings and motor vehicles. A building is defined to include any structure or watercraft used for overnight lodging or business. Meanwhile, motor vehicles are defined to include electric wheelchairs, rail cars, and snowmobiles.
The damage needed to establish an arson charge can be slight. Courts have found that even slight charring can be sufficient to sustain a conviction.
Intent is a critical element with all arson charges. Generally speaking, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to destroy property by fire or explosion. In other words, you cannot be convicted of arson if you accidentally started a fire or caused an explosion. An NYC arson lawyer can evaluate the case against you to determine the best path forward.
Arson In The Fifth Degree
Arson in the Fifth Degree (P.L. 150.01) is a class A misdemeanor that carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail. Arson in the Fifth Degree is defined as intentionally causing damage to the property of another without the owner’s consent by intentionally causing a fire or explosion. You must have intended to both have caused the fire or explosion and intended to cause damage. In other words, you cannot be convicted if you intentionally started a fire that accidentally caused damage when it got out of control.
Arson in the Fifth Degree is the only arson offense not limited to a building or motor vehicle. Instead, it can be charged when any property belonging to someone else is destroyed by fire or explosion.
Arson in the Fifth Degree is a class A misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to one year in jail.
Arson In The Fourth Degree
Arson in the Fourth Degree (P.L. 150.05) is a class E felony that carries a potential prison sentence of up to three years if you are convicted or more if you have been convicted of a felony within the last ten years. Arson in the Fourth Degree is charged in situations where a person intentionally causes a fire or causes an explosion that recklessly causes damage to a building or motor vehicle owned by someone else.
If you have been charged with Arson In The Fourth Degree, contact an NYC arson lawyer to make sure your case is properly handled.
Arson In The Third Degree
Arson in the Third Degree (P.L. 150.10) is a class C felony, and if convicted you face a sentence of up to fifteen years in prison or more if you have been convicted of a felony within the last ten years. Arson in the Third Degree is charged when a person intentionally causes damage to a building or motor vehicle by starting a fire or causing an explosion.
NYC arson lawyer Cody Warner can help you understand the charges you are facing, your potential consequences, and your best path forward.
Arson In The Second Degree
Arson in the Second Degree (P.L. 150.15) is a class B felony. If convicted, you face up to twenty-five years in prison, and you could face more if you have been convicted of a felony within the last ten years.
Arson in the Second Degree involves intentionally damaging a building or motor vehicle by fire or explosion but with two additional elements:
- There were other people present in the building or motor vehicle at the time of the arson; and
- The defendant knew there were other people or that circumstances were such that the presence of another person would be a reasonable probability.
For example, Arson in the Second Degree would be charged if the defendant set fire to someone’s home at night when they had reason to believe that the occupants would be at home.
When a fire occurs inside of a New York City apartment, you can be charged with Arson in the Second Degree for setting fire to a unit in a building even if no one was in that specific unit. So long as a person was in one of the units inside of the building, you can be charged with Arson in the Second Degree.
The outcome of your case depends upon the prosecution’s ability to prove that you intended to cause damage by fire or explosion, that you in fact caused damage, that the damage was to a building or motor vehicle, and you had some degree of knowledge that there were or could be people inside the structure. An experienced NYC arson lawyer can challenge the prosecution’s evidence and introduce your own evidence to support your case.
Arson In The First Degree
Arson in the First Degree (P.L. 150.20) is the most serious arson charge you can face. It is a class B felony, and you face a potential life sentence with a minimum prison sentence from 15 to 40 years if convicted. Also, if you have been convicted of a felony within the last ten years, you would face additional prison time on top of the already severe sentencing range.
To be charged with Arson in the First Degree, you must have intentionally caused damage to a building or motor vehicle by use of an incendiary device when another person was present, or you should have known the presence of another person was likely. In addition, the prosecution must also prove the following:
- You caused serious physical injury to another person; or
- The arson was committed for financial gain.
Arson in the First Degree can be very difficult for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. They need to prove every element of the case, including that you intended to cause damage to a building or motor vehicle, you in fact used an incendiary device (a breakable container designed to explode on impact), you knew or should have known people were present, and that it resulted in serious physical injury or you committed the act for financial gain. An NYC arson lawyer can evaluate the prosecution’s evidence and discuss your best options for moving forward.
Defenses Your NYC Arson Lawyer May Present
As with any other criminal offense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of your specific arson charge. Their evidence must be so strong that there can be no doubt as to your guilt. Additionally, the prosecution bears the burden of proof. This means that you do not need to prove your innocence; you only need to show that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden.
The arson statutes themselves identify some of the defenses that are available to each specific charge. An experienced NYC arson lawyer will know which defenses are available in your case, including the following:
- Lack of intent is a defense to all charges except Arson in the Fourth Degree, where you can be charged due to reckless behavior.
- The structure was not a building or motor vehicle is a defense to all charges except for Arson in the Fifth Degree, which applies more broadly to “property.”
- You owned the property. You cannot be charged with arson for damaging your own property.
- The owner consented to the arson.
- You had no reason to believe the structure would be occupied by another person.
- The victim did not suffer a serious physical injury but rather suffered only minor injuries.
The defenses available to you will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding your case, but your attorney can gather evidence and determine the best defense strategy for your case.
Contact NYC Arson Lawyer Cody Warner To Prepare Your Defense
Cody Warner is an experienced NYC arson lawyer who thoroughly assesses the facts of each client’s case to determine the best path forward. Contact Cody today to schedule a free consultation.