New York City Arson Defense Attorney
Arson crimes in New York involve the act of setting fire to a building or some other type of property without the consent of the owner. In order to determine the type of charges that will be filed in an arson case, it is necessary to consider the type of property that was burned, the value of the property, the type of fire/accelerants that were used, and whether there was any risk of harm to other people during the commission of the arson.
Due to the fact that the use of fire to destroy property always carries some element of risk of physical harm, New York State prosecutors take these cases very seriously and do not hesitate to aggressively go after the perceived wrongdoers. Therefore, it is extremely important for a person to get legal help as soon as he learns about the charges he is facing.
Under New York Penal Law section 150, the commission of the crime of arson is broken down into five categories of charges. The nature of this crime requires a willful and malicious intent, which provides one of the key points raised in many defenses – that the accused did not intentionally start the fire. In determining which degree of the crime was committed, the factors that are considered are:
- The defendant’s intent at the time the fire started;
- The type of materials that were used to start the fire;
- Whether the fire posed any significant risk of bodily harm or death; and
- Whether anyone was actually injured or killed as the result of the fire.
The prosecutor also will consider the type of building that was involved in an arson, charging the suspect with a more serious crime if it was an occupied residential home rather than an empty office building.
The five degrees of arson are:
- Arson in the fifth degree – This crime may be charged when a person intentionally starts a fire with the intent to damage property. This is a Class A misdemeanor and carries with it the potential for an alternative sentence with a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail;
- Arson in the fourth degree – This is a Class E felony. A person may be charged with this crime if he damages a motor vehicle or building recklessly by intentionally starting a fire. This crime may result in a sentence of between one to three years and 1.3 to four years;
- Arson in the third degree – This is a Class C felony. A person may be charged with this crime if he damages a motor vehicle or building intentionally by intentionally starting a fire (there has to be an intent to do damage and an intent to start the fire. This crime may result in a sentence of between one to three years and five to 15 years;
- Arson in the second degree – This is a Class B felony. A person may be charged with this crime if he intentionally started a fire and damages a motor vehicle or a building, there was a person in the property, and the accused knew or reasonably should have known that someone was in the property. This crime may result in a sentence of between five and 25 years in prison; and
- Arson in the first degree – This is a Class A-1 felony. This crime may be charged when:
- The person intentionally set a fire or caused an explosion to intentionally damage a motor vehicle or building; and
- The fire was caused by an incendiary or explosive device; or
- A person other than the accused was seriously injured as the result of the fire; or
- The person set the fire for financial gain; and
- There was a person present in the vehicle or building when the fire was set; and
- The person who set the fire knew or reasonably should have known that there was a person in the vehicle or building.
NYC Arson Defense Attorney
Under New York law, arson crimes only can be charged if the person intended to set the fire, which is a very tough burden for the prosecutor. If you have been charged with an arson crime, it is important to get determined and knowledgeable legal help quickly.
At Greco Neyland, PC, our attorneys are ready to get to work on your defense immediately, whether there was a lack of intent or you were not involved in the charged crime at all. Call us at (212) 951-1300 or contact us to schedule a free initial consultation. We have offices in Manhattan to serve all five boroughs of New York City.
New York Arson Defense Law Resources:
Our NYC criminal lawyers assist clients accused of or charged with the following: