Arizona Arson Laws: Protect Your Rights & Your Future From False Allegations
Regardless of how much or what kind of property damage was inflicted, charges of arson carry the potential for serious penalties, including jail or prison time, large fines, and a criminal record. If the damage is very severe, you may be facing a felony charge, which includes even more severe consequences. The state of Arizona takes arson seriously. If you’ve been arrested or charged with arson, you need the help of an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and guard your future. A skilled lawyer can help reduce your charges, get your case dismissed, or prove your innocence if applicable.
Definition Of Arson In Arizona
According to Arizona state code 13-1703 and 13-1704, arson is committed when a person “knowingly and unlawfully damages a structure or property by knowingly causing a fire or explosion.” Many people don’t realize that something as seemingly innocent as fireworks can be a source of arson. Arizona state code divides arson into different categories, depending upon the intent and actual damage caused. The offenses vary in severity. Some may be charged as a misdemeanor while others constitute a felony. Each type of conviction carries different consequences as well. Different types of arson include:
This type of arson occurs when a person unintentionally causes a fire or explosion that damages an occupied structure, an unoccupied structure, wildlands, or property. Reckless burning is considered to be a class 1 misdemeanor.
Unlawful Cross Or Symbol Burning
According to Arizona state law, a person cannot burn a cross on the property of another person without their consent, on a highway, or in any other public place. It’s also against the law to burn any other symbol on the property of another person without their consent, on a highway, or in another public place. Any of these types of acts are class 1 misdemeanors.
Some types of wildlands burnings are legal, including:
Open burnings that are lawfully conducted in the course of agricultural operations.
Fire management operations that are conducted by a political subdivision.
Prescribed or controlled burns that are conducted with written authority from the state forester.
These lawful wildland burning activities must be conducted pursuant to any rule, regulation, or policy that is adopted by a state, tribal, or federal agency.
However, if wildlands are burned outside of one of the mentioned lawful reasons, the arsonist can be charged with a class 3 felony.
If the wildland burning is committed negligently, it’s considered a class 2 misdemeanor.
If the wildland burning is committed recklessly, it’s a class 1 misdemeanor.
If the person commits wildland burning intentionally or knowingly, it’s a class 6 felony.
If the wildland burning places a person, an occupied structure, or puts an unoccupied structure in danger of injury or damage, it’s considered a class 3 felony.
Arson Of a Structure Or Property
Arizona state law defines property as anything besides a structure that has value, whether or not that value is tangible. A structure includes any building, watercraft, vehicle, aircraft, or other object that has sides and a floor.
The type of charge will depend on the value of the property:
If the value of the property is less than $100, it’s a class 1 misdemeanor.
If the value of the property is between $100 and $1000, it’s a class 5 felony.
If the value of the property is more than $1000, it’s a class 4 felony.
Additionally, the type of charge depends upon the function and occupation status of the structure:
Arson of an unoccupied structure is a class 4 felony.
Arson of an occupied structure is a class 2 felony.
Arson of an occupied jail or prison is a class 3 felony.
Consequences Of An Arson Conviction
Since there is a wide range of arson severity, the potential penalties and convictions also vary widely. Repeat offenders will face more severe penalties than those who are receiving their first arson conviction. As an example, a first-time class 2 felony arson charge could be penalized with up to 12.5 years in prison, up to 7 years probation, and a fine of up to $150,000. If you are facing arson charges, it’s crucial to work with a skilled Arizona criminal defense attorney.
In general, people who are convicted of arson can expect jail or prison time, fines, and probation. Felony convictions include loss of the right to vote and to own a firearm. If emergency response personnel are called to the scene, the arsonist may be held liable for those expenses as well.
Defenses To Arizona Arson Charges
Your Arizona criminal defense firmwill make their own investigation into your case and build a defense against your charges. Common defenses to arson cases can include:
Demonstrating lack of required mental state
Debating the lawfulness of conduct
Attacking the state’s forensic science evidence of the incident