Arson is an incredibly serious offense and the penalties attached to it are equally serious. Unfortunately, wrongful convictions for arson have been all too frequent. The reason for this: junk science. Oftentimes there is an innocent explanation for the cause of a fire but experts were telling juries that the defendant caused the fire based on unqualified or poorly examined opinions. Juries find expert testimony very reliable, even if they don’t understand the underlying science. Fortunately, the science has evolved, but sadly juries have not. That is why it is vitally important to get an attorney who understands the current state of arson-related science and can explain that science to both the judge and the jury in a way that they can easily digest.
To prove arson, the State must show that the defendant willfully set fire to a dwelling or structure. If this was done in the commission of a felony, the arson is a first degree offense punishable by up to 30 years in the Florida Department of Corrections, otherwise it is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years of incarceration. In addition, if any firefighters or other individuals are injured as a result of the arson or extinguishing the arson, then there is a misdemeanor count added for each and every injured person, punishable by up to 364 days in the county jail for each injured person. Finally, the mere possession of a bomb that is intended to be used in a future arson is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years of incarceration.
If you or someone you know has been charged with arson, reach out to me as soon as possible for your free consultation so that we can begin preparing your defense!
Arson – Fla. Stat. 806.01
- Any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes to be damaged:
- Any dwelling, whether occupied or not, or its contents;
- Any structure, or contents thereof, where persons are normally present, such as: jails, prisons, or detention centers; hospitals, nursing homes, or other health care facilities; department stores, office buildings, business establishments, churches, or educational institutions during normal hours of occupancy; or other similar structures; or
- Any other structure that he or she knew or had reasonable grounds to believe was occupied by a human being,
is guilty of arson in the first degree, which constitutes a felony of the first degree.
- Any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes to be damaged any structure, whether the property of himself or herself or another, under any circumstances not referred to in subsection (1), is guilty of arson in the second degree, which constitutes a felony of the second degree.
Arson, Fire Bombing – Fla. Stat. 806.111
- Any person who possesses, manufactures, transports, or disposes of a fire bomb with intent that such fire bomb be willfully and unlawfully used to damage by fire or explosion any structure or property is guilty of a felony of the third degree.
- For the purposes of this section:
- “Disposes of” means to give, give away, loan, offer, offer for sale, sell, or transfer.
- “Fire bomb” means a container containing flammable or combustible liquid, or any incendiary chemical mixture or compound having a wick or similar device capable of being ignited or other means capable of causing ignition; but no device commercially manufactured primarily for the purpose of illumination, heating, or cooking shall be deemed to be such a fire bomb.
Arson, with Personal Injury – Fla. Stat. 806.031
- A person who perpetrates any arson that results in any bodily harm to a firefighter or any other person, regardless of intent or lack of intent to cause such harm, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.
- A person who perpetrates any arson that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to a firefighter or any other person, regardless of intent or lack of intent to cause such harm, is guilty of a felony of the second degree.
Jury Instruction 12.1 (First Degree)
Jury Instruction 12.2 (Second Degree)
Jury Instruction 12.3 (Fire Bombing)
Jury Instruction 12.9 (Arson Resulting in Injury)