Arson 2019-08-14T14:29:35+00:00

Crime Of Arson In Colorado

Accidentally starting a fire is usually not considered arson unless reckless behavior is involved. But willfully setting a fire with malicious intent is considered arson, and a conviction of such will result in stiff penalties.

There are many different types of arson. Most arson cases involve damages to buildings or structures, land, boats or other types of property. When buildings are set on fire, the degree of crime is usually decided by whether the structure was occupied or unoccupied. This is because the higher the potential for injuries or death, the more serious the crime. For example, burning an abandoned shed or barn is not considered as severe a crime of arson as burning an occupied home.

When fires occur, special law enforcement units thoroughly investigate the remains to determine the point of origin (where the fire began). These investigative teams often use chemical analyses. It can take months or years to complete a fire investigation and bring charges against someone. Motivation and intent behind the arson is considered in the investigative process as well. Sometimes, arson is found to be a coverup for another type of criminal activity.

In Colorado, a person can be charged with four different degrees of arson. The most severe, of course, is when someone sets a fire or causes an explosion in an occupied building. Whether injuries or damages occur does not matter; the potential for personal injuries and the intent is what establishes the severity of the crime.

Second-degree arson is when an unoccupied building (belonging to another person) is started on fire, or an explosion is set to go off in it. This type of arson is a felony if the structure is valued at over $100. Third-degree arson involves setting a fire for the purpose of insurance fraud. Fourth-degree arson is a fire that damages property unintentionally through reckless behavior. This is less severe than the other degrees of arson, and law officials must prove recklessness existed.

If you have been charged with arson of any degree, you will want an attorney who provides defense for arson charges. Penalties can span a large range. Your attorney may be able to reinvestigate the fire by hiring its own forensic team and possibly provide evidence that will benefit your defense.

Source: FindLaw, “Arson,” accessed Feb. 7, 2018

Attorneys Practicing Criminal Law

Arson Attorney

Everyone loves a crackling fire, except for those that are set on purpose to destroy property and injure people. People who intentionally set fires that destroy property may be committing the crime of arson. There are four degrees of arson crimes in Colorado, and each one represents a serious criminal charge that is punishable by fines and time in prison. If you’re facing an arson charge of any degree, you need to know what the state looks for as it prepares its case against you. Colorado Statutes § 18-4-102 et seq.

Arson in the First Degree

The most severe form of arson, this crime involves intentionally setting a fire or causing an explosion that starts a fire in an occupied building or structure. It doesn’t matter if there was no one in the structure, or if no one was injured, or whether the fire caused damage. The heart of the crime lies in knowingly and intentionally setting fire to the structure, knowing it might cause damage to that property.

Conviction of an arson one charge can lead to fines up to $750,000 and as many as 12 years in prison.

Second-Degree Arson

This crime differs from arson one because the property involved is not an inhabited building and belongs to another person or entity. The value of the property affected establishes the penalties assessed on a person convicted of an arson two charge; if the value of the property exceeds $100.00, then it becomes a felony and penalties include a fine up to $500,000 and several years in prison.

Third-Degree Arson

This crime involves setting a fire for the purpose of defrauding another. People who set their own property on fire to set up a false insurance claim are committing the crime of arson in the third degree. This crime also incurs financial penalties and prison terms as penalties.

Fourth-Degree Arson

An arson four charge involves any fire that causes unintended damage to anyone’s property, even if there was no intent to burn that property. People can be accused of an arson crime when they behave recklessly, without considering that their actions might cause damage to other people’s property.

To establish an arson four case, the state must prove that the defendant recklessly set a fire:

  • Where there were excessive amounts of dry tinder within the vicinity,
  • Too close to buildings or structures, or
  • In a location that threatened the lives or safety of other people.

Defenses to Arson

Arson can be difficult to prove because the fire itself destroys much of the evidence of the crime. Also, except for the recklessness identified in the crime of fourth-degree arson, no crime is committed when there is no intent to commit one. People make mistakes and accidents happen.

However, the prosecution often uses forensic science to find causes and sources of arson even in the most burned-out crime scenes, and sometimes witnesses tell tales of how an accused person spoke about fires or setting fires.

For our clients, we hire forensic investigators and experts to evaluate the crime scene and all available evidence to determine whether a crime occurred or to refute the prosecution’s claim that our client perpetrated the crime of arson. Let our arson lawyers protect you in the court system.

The Burning Question: Four Defenses To Arson

If you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned. Being charged with arson, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a criminal conviction. You may not have had malicious intent when starting the fire, and there are strong defenses that you can use to give you a fighting chance in court.

For example, you may have heard of the 150-acre fire that scorched Fort Collins in February 2017. It was later determined that the fire started from someone improperly disposing of a cigarette.

Fires like this can and do happen, and facing arson charges as a result can be anybody’s worst fear. But, if you’re facing these charges, don’t lose hope just yet. A skilled attorney can successfully challenge arson charges and save you from potentially devastating conviction.

Here are three defenses to arson.

  1. Lack of intent

    • A defense attorney can argue that the fire was not intentionally or knowingly set. As noted above, unintentional arson can be a result of improper disposal of a cigarette or embers from a bonfire that catch fire. Since an element of arson is proving that a person intended to start the fire, this can be a strong defense.
  2. Mental illness

    • Another defense for arson is that the person responsible was suffering from a mental defect or disease. Here are generally three types of defenses for arson.
      • M’Naghten insanity defense
        • The accused did not have the capacity to know that what they were doing was wrong and was suffering from a mental condition that impaired their judgment.
      • Irresistible impulse defense
        • The inability to control one’s conduct due to a mental illness, even though they knew what they were doing was wrong.
      • Substantial capacity test
        • The defendant had the capacity to know the difference between right and wrong, but lacked the ability to choose correctly. In other words, their personality may have played a role in their decision-making.
  3. Case of mistaken identity

    • It isn’t unheard of for a person to be wrongly accused of a crime. While the evil twin story may not always be the case, mistakes do happen. The defendant may not have been the person who committed the arson and their attorney would argue a case of mistaken identity.

Whatever the case may be, these defenses may be able to help prevent your case from going up in flames.

Arson Charges May Require An Investigative Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime of arson, you are going to want a good defense. Depending on what your charges are, you may even need a defense team that is willing to go the extra mile and add “private investigator” to their position description.

You know what your charges are, so you should also know what degree you are charged with. There are four degrees of arson charges.

First-degree arson is the most serious. This is a crime where you are being charged with intentionally setting a fire in an occupied dwelling or structure. If you cause an explosion that results in a fire, that is the same as setting a fire. The crime is due to the intent, and it doesn’t matter if the outcome shows no one was occupying the dwelling, no one was hurt or no damages occurred. You could be facing up to 12 years of incarceration and fines of up to $750,000 if convicted.

Lesser degrees can still involve huge fines and prison time. Even a conviction of starting a fire for the purpose of fraud, such as to profit from the insurance money, can incur prison time and fines.

If you are charged with an unintentional crime of arson due to recklessness, the state has the responsibility of proving your action was, indeed, due to recklessness. Recklessness is not the same as an honest mistake or an accident. Investigations are done to find the exact cause of a fire, and prosecutors may use forensic science in their process of determination.

This is where having an attorney who is willing to hire forensic investigators on your behalf or do their own investigating will benefit you. Providing evidence of innocence is important to any arson defense.

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