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A conviction for arson or a related crime can have a long-lasting impact on a person's life. In addition to jail or prison time, a person could be forced to pay expensive fines and carry the burden of a criminal record. Even after the court ordered punishment is completed, arson convictions could prevent you from living the life you want.
In Pennsylvania, if a person is convicted of an arson offense, he or she could be prohibited from serving as a firefighter, according to the State Fire Commissioner Act. This means even a mistake as a young adult could alter the rest of your life. Fighting a conviction can be important for several reasons.
Any criminal charge for arson can be complex considering the amount of chemical analysis involved. It is important you have legal counsel who can understand what it takes to combat arson charges. Contact a defense lawyer at the Skinner Law Firm.
Michael J. Skinner and the legal team at the Skinner Law Firm can help you understand the charges you are facing and provide you with options. They understand how important your reputation and future are, and they can help you protect them. The Skinner Law Firm represents clients throughout Chester County and Delaware County. Call (610) 436-1410 to schedule a free consultation.
In Pennsylvania, arson charges differ based on who or what the fire could have harmed or potentially harmed. According to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301, a person could be charged with "arson endangering persons" or "arson endangering property."
For instance, a person commits "arson endangering persons" if he or she intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion that recklessly places another person in danger or he or she commits the act with the purpose of destroying or damaging an inhabited building or occupied structure of another.
In these scenarios, if a person starts a fire and it recklessly places a firefighter, police officer or other person actively engaged in fighting the fire in danger of death or bodily injury, it could be considered arson. This charge still could apply if a person aids, counsels, pays or agrees to pay another to cause a fire or explosion.
Arson endangering people is a first-degree felony, which could carry up to 20 years in prison, fines up to $25,000 or both. However, if a person is killed as a result of the fire or explosion, the charges and penalties could increase.
If the fire or explosion causes the death of any person, including a firefighter, police officer or other person actively engaged in fighting the fire, the person could face a second-degree murder charge. If the fire or explosion causes the death of another person with the purpose of killing a person, the accused could face first-degree murder charges. This could mean life in prison without parole.
"Arson endangering property" is an offense that involves intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion with intent of destroying or damaging a building or recklessly placing an inhabited building or occupied structure in danger of damage.
This also could apply if a person commits the act with intent of destroying or damaging any property, whether his own or of another, to collect insurance for such loss, according to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(c).
For instance, if a person purposefully burns down his or her own home to collect insurance money, if convicted, he or she could be charged with a second-degree felony. The charge is considered serious, and it can carry up to 10 years in prison, up to $25,000 in fines or both.
Other arson-related charges under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301 include:
Reckless burning or exploding— A person could be charged with this offense if he or she intentionally starts or aids in starting a fire or explosion that places an uninhabited building or unoccupied structure of another in danger of damage or places property valued at more than $5,000 in danger of damage. This could include automobiles, airplanes, motorcycles, motorboats or other motor-propelled vehicles. This is a third-degree felony.
Dangerous burning — A person commits a summary offense if he or she intentionally or recklessly starts a fire to endanger any person or property, whether or not any injury or damage occurs.
Failure to control or report dangerous fires — A person who knows a fire is endangering the life or property of another and fails to take reasonable measures to put out or control the fire or to give a prompt fire alarm, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he or she started the fire or it was on his or her property.
Possession of explosive or incendiary materials or devices — A person commits a felony of the third degree if he or she possesses, manufactures or transports any incendiary or explosive material with the intent to use or to provide such device or material to commit any act of arson.
If you are facing charges for allegedly starting a dangerous fire in Delaware County or the West Chester Area, contact an arson defense attorney at the Skinner Law Firm. Our legal team can work with you one-on-one to ensure your rights are represented. You do not have to face the legal system alone. Call (610) 436-1410 for a free consultation.