North Carolina Arson Defense Attorney
Aggressive Arson Lawyer Serving Jacksonville, Wilmington, and Surrounding Areas.
Jacksonville, NC Arson Lawyer
Buildings and homes catch fire for various reasons, some natural and some artificial. A blaze may begin when a pot of food burns, lightning strikes a structure, or faulty wiring sparks flames. While fires often start on their own, sometimes humans intentionally set fires with criminal intent. You need representation by a North Carolina arson defense attorney if you face arson accusations or charges.
A criminal charge for arson dramatically impacts your future, and it is not something to face on your own. You need a dedicated Jacksonville criminal defense attorney when you stand accused of committing arson. The Wilkie Law Firm aggressively defends our clients against criminal charges and ensures the justice system respects their legal rights. We ensure our clients understand each step of the process, beginning with the initial free consultation. Please call (855) 691-3396 for a case evaluation with experienced North Carolina arson lawyer Aden Wilkie.
What is Arson?
Fire is among the most frightening and destructive forces known to man. A blaze can quickly spread, likely destroying everything in its path. As such, arson is a serious common law crime because of the possibility of serious bodily injury or death to arson victims.
The offense of arson involves intentionally setting a fire with malicious intent to burn or destroy property. Arson may include inhabited or uninhabited houses, other structures, automobiles, and forests. Arson also occurs when a person burns personal property to commit insurance fraud. Keep in mind, however, that in most jurisdictions, simply burning personal property is not considered an act of arson. An exception only exists if a person burns property to defraud someone.
People commit arson for various reasons, including revenge, destroying evidence of other crimes, and insurance fraud. In some cases, however, defendants are wrongfully accused of setting a blaze or investigators make mistakes. A skilled legal team will explore all potential avenues of defense and work to secure the best outcome for your individual case.
NC Property Crimes
Arson is considered a property crime; however, the crime is more severe than most other property crimes because of its potential to seriously injure or kill victims. However, a person does not have to burn another’s dwelling for the act to be considered arson. A prosecutor may establish arson if the burning occurs within the “curtilage” of the dwelling house. A structure’s curtilage includes the land surrounding the dwelling house, barns, sheds, and other structures on the property.
The act is a felony under North Carolina law and carries harsh penalties. You need the assistance of a qualified defense attorney if you’ve been accused of arson.
Degrees of Arson
As mentioned above, North Carolina law places arson into two categories: first-degree and second-degree arson. First-degree arson is the more serious of the two degrees, as it is the intentional burning of an occupied dwelling.
First Degree Arson
First-degree arson occurs when an occupied building or home burns. This crime is considered a Class D felony. Prison time is mandatory for this offense, and depending on the presence of any prior convictions, first-degree arson carries a prison sentence ranging between 38 to 60 months.
The state must prove the following factors to win a first-degree arson conviction:
- The accused set the structure ablaze.
- The burned structure was a dwelling house.
- The burned structure was another’s dwelling.
- The accused committed the arson crime with malicious intent and burned the structure.
A “dwelling house” is where persons live, dwell, reside, rest, or stay. If occupied, recreational trailers, mobile homes, and manufactured homes are also dwelling houses.
Second Degree Arson
In a second-degree arson, the building may be unoccupied at the time of the fire. This arson crime is a Class G felony; punishment includes 8 to 31 years in prison. A second-degree arson conviction does not require a mandatory active jail sentence.
A person with no prior convictions may receive intermediate punishment. An intermediate sentence includes a range with a minimum prison term and an open release date. A defendant may be sentenced to “15 to 20 years,” for example. A state parole board generally determines the release date.
Burning an uninhabited structure is not technically considered arson because the building is not a dwelling. However, the offense carries tough penalties and is still considered a felony. In addition, the state’s arson laws distinguish between the types of buildings involved. For instance, setting fire to a legislative building, justice building, government structure, or school may warrant Class F felony charges, while the burning of a church or other religious structure may bring separate Class E felony charges.
What Is a Class D Felony?
North Carolina law places felonies into different classes determining the type and length of possible punishments. A Class D felony is the fourth highest in the ranking system. It is a high-level offense that includes violent crimes such as burglary, armed robbery, voluntary manslaughter, and murder, in addition to arson in the first degree.
Is Arson a Federal Crime?
Certain types of criminal offenses are illegal under both state and federal law. Arson is one of those crimes. A person who intentionally burns property used in interstate or foreign commerce commits federal arson. The federal government may bring charges if the affected property crosses state or international boundaries.
Bombing federal property or setting it on fire is also a federal crime. Additionally, a conspiracy to perpetrate arson charges is possible if a person reasonably believes they may be providing or engaging in interstate transportation of arson materials.
The penalty for federal criminal arson offenses is generally between five to 20 years in prison, but defendants may receive significantly longer time behind bars in certain cases. For example, the penalty might increase to 7 to 40 years if the crime caused personal injury to a victim. The sentence may include life imprisonment or the death penalty if a defendant’s actions cause the death of another person. Sentencing is equally as harsh if a defendant harms or causes the death of a public safety officer.
Penalties for Arson in North Carolina
Arson is a dangerous crime that destroys property and may even cause severe injury or claim human lives. The sentence for the crime in North Carolina depends on various factors, including a defendant’s prior criminal history. Here are some general sentencing guidelines:
- First-Degree Arson: The malicious burning of another’s occupied dwelling is a Class D felony punishable by 38 to 160 months in prison.
- Second-Degree Arson: The intentional burning of another’s unoccupied dwelling (uninhabited house) is a Class G felony carrying 8 to 31 months of incarceration.
- Class E Felony: The burning of a church or certain other religious buildings is considered a Class E felony and may warrant 15 to 63 months in prison.
- Class F Felony: This includes the burning of government buildings, schools, firehouses, toll bridges, and certain other buildings and bridges. Convictions may result in anywhere from 10 to 41 months in prison.
- Class H Felony: If a person sets fire to a building or structure in the process of construction, it is considered a Class H felony, which is punishable by 4 to 25 months in prison.
North Carolina Statute of Limitations for Arson
State laws allow prosecutors a limited time to bring charges against those accused of certain crimes. These time limits are what are referred to as the statutes of limitations. In North Carolina, there is a two-year statute of limitations on most misdemeanors. However, North Carolina is unique in the fact that the state has no such limit for felony offenses or crimes classified as “malicious” misdemeanors.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Your NC Arson Charge
Not only do arson crimes destroy structures and place others’ safety and lives in jeopardy, but they also often destroy irreplaceable items and rob families of their homes and memories. A fire quickly wipes out cherished photos, collectibles, family heirlooms, and treasured items like favorite stuffed animals. As such, arson is a crime that evokes strong negative emotions, and a person accused of this offense faces an uphill battle defending themselves.
That is why it is so important that those who are accused of maliciously or fraudulently setting fire to a dwelling or property equip the help of a qualified North Carolina arson attorney who will defend your rights while building a solid defense to protect your future. A skilled criminal defense attorney like Mr. Wilkie designs potential defenses based on your case. Some of the most common arson defenses include showing that:
- The fire did not start with arson.
- The accusations against you are false.
- You did not begin the fire with criminal intent.
Jacksonville, NC Arson Defense Lawyer
Arson is an intentional crime, and the state must prove you set the fire on purpose. Aden Wilkie of the Wilkie Law Firm is well-versed in North Carolina’s arson laws, arson cases, and what constitutes intent. He carefully reviews the specifics of your case, ensures you know your options and rights, and designs a solid legal strategy.
You need the best North Carolina arson lawyer on your side when your future is at stake. Call the Wilkie Law Firm when you’re facing criminal charges. Attorney Wilkie vigorously and skillfully defends his clients when they’re facing these devastating charges. Arson charges may severely impact your current life and future. If the North Carolina courts find you guilty, you face years behind bars and a felony criminal record.
The Wilkie Law Firm provides clients with a vigorous defense and a second chance. Contact our law offices today at (855) 691-3396 to establish your attorney-client relationship or complete our online contact form.
In addition to arson defense, our North Carolina criminal defense attorneys also provide representation for various legal issues and criminal charges, including sex crimes defense, domestic violence defense, drug trafficking defense, and military criminal defense.