In Arizona, per A.R.S. §13-1703 and §13-1704 “Arson” occurs when a person knowingly and unlawfully damages a structure or property by knowingly causing a fire or explosion.
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Possible Punishment for Arson
If the structure was occupied, then Arson can be charged as a class two (2) felony. A class two (2) felony punishment can be probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of three (3) years to twelve and one half (12.5) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is four and one half (4.5) years to twenty-three and one quarter (23.25) years in prison. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is ten and one half (10.5) to thirty-five (35) years of incarceration.
If the structure was unoccupied, or if the property has a value of more than $1000.00, then the person can be charged with a class four (4) felony for Arson. A class four (4) felony punishment can be probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of one (1) year to three and three quarters (3.75) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is two and one quarter (2.25) to seven and one half (7.5) years of incarceration. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is six (6) to fifteen (15) years of incarceration.
If the value of the property is more than $100.00 but not more than $1000.00, then the person can be charged with a class five (5) felony for Arson. A class five (5) felony punishment can be probation with zero (0) days up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of six (6) months to two and one half (2.5) years in custody. If the person has one (1) historical allegeable prior felony conviction, then the “prison only” range is one (1) to three and three quarters (3.75) years of incarceration. If the person has two (2) historical allegeable prior felony convictions then the “prison only” range is three (3) years to seven and one half (7.5) years of incarceration.
If the value of the property is $100.00 or less, then Arson can be charged as a class one (1) misdemeanor. A class one (1) misdemeanor carries punishment of probation with anywhere from zero (0) days in jail up to six (6) months in jail, and a fine of up to $2500.00 plus an 84% surcharge.
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If anybody is injured during the fire, then the additional charge of Aggravated Assault can be filed against the suspect. This will depend on the level and extent of the injuries suffered.
Possible Defenses for Arson
The key to defending an Arson charge is showing that the defendant lacked the necessary intent; the defendant did not intend to either start a fire at all, or the defendant didn’t intend to burn a structure or property when they did start the fire. There are numerous household accidents which could result in a structure being burned to the ground. For example, installing new TV equipment that short circuits and the wires catch on fire. This problem often arises when an insurance company unfairly attempts to shift the blame on to the defendant, rather than paying off an expensive claim. It is important to carefully scrutinize all aspects of the detectives’ reports to determine whether they have misconstrued any of the evidence. It may also be necessary to utilize our own investigator in order to look for faulty wiring, faulty gas line hook-ups, defective appliances, and other things that could have contributed to starting the fire. Additionally, we would argue that even if the defendant knowingly lit something on fire, he did not knowingly damage property. For example, if a camper merely lights a campfire (so he knowingly started a fire), and then it spreads out of control and burns down adjacent buildings, this would not necessarily qualify as Arson because he did not knowingly damage any buildings by the fire. Another example is lighting a cigarette and accidently throwing a lit match into the trashcan which catches fire and burns down the house; the defendant never intended to burn anything down, only to light their cigarette.
Additionally, because our law firm fights convictions from all angles, we would assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those we frequently assert is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Arizona, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements. In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; ballistics; gunshot residue testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc.. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Arson lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.
We are an AV® rated law firm (the highest possible rating by Martindale Hubbell®). Also David Michael Cantor is an Arson lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. In addition, the Firm and all of its lawyers are listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers®. At DM Cantor, the majority of our Attorneys are ex-prosecutors, and all of our Arson Lawyers in Phoenix know the system well. For a Free Initial Consultation, call us at 602-307-0808. We will assist you with your Arson case.