Virginia Arson Defense Attorney
Arson-related criminal charges can be a very scary experience. If you have been charged with arson, you need the help of an experienced arson attorney right away. Depending on whether or not the building or structure was occupied, conviction can result in up to life in prison. If the building was not occupied, arson is a Class 4 felony which can result in two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. If the building was occupied, an arson conviction carries a minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of life in prison. Further, if a person was in the building and they died as a result of the fire, the defendant can also be charged with murder. A person can be charged with arson for aiding, counseling, or procuring the burning, not just for setting the fire itself.
If convicted of arson, a defendant will also likely be the subject of a civil lawsuit from the building owner and anyone who suffered a loss due to the fire. This can result in serious financial damages being leveled against the defendant which can result in the defendant losing significant assets and possibly bankruptcy. While a not guilty verdict does not guarantee that a civil charge will also fail (the bar for a civil trial is lower than a criminal trial), being convicted in a criminal trial can be used as evidence in civil court.
Perhaps the most important element to arson is showing intent. For a person to be convicted of arson, the state must prove that the person maliciously set the fire. If that intent cannot clearly be shown, the jury is instructed to return a not guilty verdict. Because proving this intent often relies on fire experts and other forensic testimony, it is important to hire an attorney who has the means to retain experts who can testify on your behalf. A person could also be charged with arson if they are found to be grossly negligent, but more often than not the state will want to bring charges against a person when they have evidence that the fire was maliciously set.
Experts will also be brought by the prosecutor, and their testimony will include a lot of scientific and forensic analysis, such as the presence of accelerants, the burn patterns that show where the fire started, and showing exactly how hot the fire became. These are just some of the indicators that the state will look at when attempting to prove intent and an experienced and knowledgeable defense attorney is necessary to understand and properly rebut these scientific and forensic findings.
If you maliciously burn any structure in Virginia or maliciously set fire to woods, fences, grass, straw or anything else capable of spreading fire on land, you may be facing arson charges. Maliciously setting a fire to anything will be punished, even if it is abandoned property. Our attorneys can help you get through these tough charges and work to secure your freedom.
If you are facing arson charges, contact The Law Offices of Patrick N. Anderson and Associates. Our experienced team of attorneys has successfully represented criminal cases for 30 years. A good defense team may make a difference in the ultimate charges and/or punishments associated with the crime if you are convicted.