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Factors Determining Severity Of Arson Charges

by Kristen Wright

An arson charge can be an extremely serious crime or a relatively minor crime depending on the circumstances. Here are some of the factors that determine the severity of arson charges:

Injuries or Fatalities

The occurrence of an injury or a fatality will aggravate your arson charges even if that wasn't your intention in the first place. For example, if you burn down a shop and its attendant gets injured while trying to save some stock, your arson charges will be serious even if you didn't know the attendant was in the shop at the time.

Building Occupancy

In most places, setting fire to an occupied property attracts more serious charges than setting fire to an empty property. This makes sense because burning an occupied property can easily cause injury to the building's occupants. Therefore, a person who burns down a business during its hours of operations will face a more severe charge than a person who sets fire to a similar business outside its hours of operations.

The Extent of Property Damage

The cost of the damage will also be a factor in determining the severity of your charges, with higher costs automatically leading to more severe charges. This is one of those cases where "the punishment must fit the crime." Therefore, burning down a luxury mason will attract harsher charges and penalties as compared to, say, burning down an outdoor storage shed.

Intention of Arsonist

In many cases, the court will also consider your intentions when determining the level of charges you should face. The more sinister your intentions were, the more severe your charges will be. For example, burning down a home with the intention of killing its occupants is more serious than burning down a home because it is an eyesore in the neighborhood. In the first case, you will be targeting an occupied property, while that isn't necessarily true with the second case.

Type of Property  

Lastly, the nature of the property may also determine the class of arson you are charged with. This is because the type of property burnt determines the cost of damage as well as the consequences of your actions. For example, burning down a school or a government lab may be considered more serious than burning down a fence separating your property from your neighbor's.

If you are being accused of arson, you need to make sure that your charges aren't unnecessarily elevated. A criminal defense attorney can help you with that and defend the eventual charges too.