How Can Arson Charges Be Defended in Court?

While some fires are accidental, others are started on purpose. In New Jersey, arson is a grave crime that not only causes devastating property damage but also endangers people’s lives. As such, arson carries harsh penalties, including imprisonment. Defending against arson charges is often tricky as it’s considered a violent crime. Therefore, if you’re under investigation or charged with arson, it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced ​Bergen County Violent Crimes Attorney who can help you protect your rights and freedom. 

What Are the Degrees of Arson?

In New Jersey, arson is defined as the intentional or reckless causing of a fire or explosion that puts a person in danger of injury or death. Arson can be charged as a First, Second, Third, or Fourth-degree crime. The level of the charge depends on the intention of the accused, whether the act results in injury or death, the type of property involved, and whether payments were involved to commit the act. The charges are broken down into the following degrees:

  • Arson in the first degree: This is when a person, directly or indirectly, pays or accepts any form of compensation for the purpose of starting a fire or causing an explosion. Arson in the first degree, is also charged when the target is a place of worship.
  • Second-degree arson (aggravated): This is when a person starts a fire or causes an explosion and they either:
    • Purposely or knowingly places another person in danger of severe bodily injury or death
    • Acted with the purpose of destroying another person’s building or structure
    • Intended to collect insurance money on the damaged or destroyed property while endangering another person
    • Destroyed or damaged a property to exempt the structure from zoning, building, land, or other regulations of a government entity while endangering another person
    • Intentionally placed a forest in danger of destruction or great harm
  • Third-degree arson: This is when a person intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion that recklessly endangers a building or a person.
  • Fourth-degree arson is when a person has a legal or contractual duty to prevent a fire and fails to control or take reasonable steps to put out the fire that’s endangering another person’s life or property when they can do so with minimal risk to themselves.

Are There Any Defenses to These Charges?

As mentioned above, arson is often difficult to defend. However, a determined Bergen County violent crimes attorney can help you refute allegations. For the prosecution to render a conviction, they must prove causation and the suspect’s motive. The most effective way to defend against arson charges is by demonstrating that the motive either doesn’t exist or is irrelevant. In addition, a solid and reliable alibi can help prove that the accused could not have committed the crime as they were somewhere else when it was allegedly committed.

If you’ve been accused of arson, please don’t hesitate to contact a skilled attorney from The Law Office of Carl Spector, who can help you clear your name. Allow our firm to represent your interests to maximize your chances of achieving the best possible outcome.