If someone purposely sets a fire or causes an explosion, then that person can be charged with arson. The offense can be committed in many ways – for example, by recklessly starting wildfires or by attempting to burn one’s own property in order to collect insurance. Any instance in which someone recklessly burns down a structure, whether it’s a building or some other form of property, is also generally considered arson.
One who accidentally starts a fire, however, is NOT guilty of arson. Because arson is a crime, and crimes require criminal intent, a person who negligently starts a fire would not generally be liable for committing the crime of arson. A prosecutor may have a different perception of the circumstances if a high degree of negligence is involved. Where there is gross negligence, for example, such as in throwing a lit cigarette into a the dry brush of a forest and assuming the cigarette will put itself out, a party may find himself subsequently facing a criminal charge of arson for his reckless and/or intentional conduct when the forest later catches fire.
There are a number of defenses to a charge of arson, depending on the circumstances of the fire or the explosion, and the state where the incident occurred. These defenses include:
- Mistaken identity
- Lack of intent
- Alibi defense
- The fire was an accident
- The fire was the product of natural causes
- The fire was the result of electrical or mechanical sources
- Flawed fire investigation pointing to human catalyst of fire.
- The alleged perpetrator was Intoxicated at the time
- Insanity or diminished capacity defense
If you or someone you know has been implicated in an arson offense, please contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick at 1-866-337-2900 for a free case evaluation.