CrimeGrade.org gives Florida an overall C rating and a D+ for arson crimes, putting the state in the 29th percentile for safety. Because of the crime levels, Florida law enforcement actively looks for those breaking the law.
If you ever face a property crime charge, like arson, you want to hire an arson lawyer immediately. Since arson laws vary by state, the penalties for arson in Florida differ from those in neighboring states. Thus, having an experienced attorney from Florida is vital to reducing or eliminating the charges.
Learn about the crime of arson and how to seek legal advice for an arson charge.
What Is Arson in Florida?
Florida Statute 806.01 defines arson as when someone deliberately and illegally damages a structure or dwelling by lighting it on fire or causing it to explode.
Florida law defines a structure as the following:
- A building of any kind
- An enclosed area with a roof above it
- Any real property and related appendages
- Portable buildings and tents
- Vehicles, including aircraft and watercraft
Structures can include the following:
- Department stores
- Educational institutions
- Healthcare facilities
- Jails and detention centers
- Nursing homes
- Office buildings
Examples of Arson
While there are many examples of arson in Florida, the most common result when people also do the following:
- Carry out a hate crime
- Commit acts of vandalism
- Try to collect insurance money
- Try to destroy evidence
Simply lighting a dwelling or structure on fire will likely be an arson crime, even if the perpetrator wasn’t committing or concealing other crimes. Additionally, if someone murders their parents and then burns down the house to hide the murder, this is also an arson crime.
Penalties for Arson in Florida
There are various charges of arson one may face. Here are some of the different arson charges in Florida.
Human occupancy at the time of the arson determines if the culprit will receive the most serious felony charge, a first-degree felony. If they knew or possessed knowledge that human beings were present at the property, they would receive a first-degree charge of arson.
The punishment is a prison sentence of up to 30 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
A second-degree felony for arson is when one intentionally lights a dwelling or structure on fire where no one is present—for instance, lighting a convenience store on fire after operating hours.
The penalties are up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Statute of Limitation on Arson Charges
The statute of limitations for first-degree arson is four years and three years for second-degree arson. If the state wants to charge someone for causing injury to another, the statute of limitations is two years.
What if the Arson Caused Injuries?
Florida arson penalties don’t include injuries caused by the crime. They only penalize the crime of arson. Thus, if the arson caused an injury, the offender will face additional charges.
According to Section 031, if the arson caused great bodily harm, a permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, the offender will face a second-degree felony charge. The penalty is up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up $10,000.
If arson caused personal injury to another, the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor. The sentence is up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000.
What Is the Punishment for Arson if There Are Insurance Fraud Charges?
Anytime a homeowner files a claim for fire damage, the claims adjuster will do a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the fire and ensure it isn’t an arson case. If investigators discover insurance fraud, the offender will face further charges.
Burning in order to defraud an insurance company is a third-degree felony. The punishment is a prison sentence of up to five years and a maximum fine of $5,000.
In addition to these penalties, several others are on the books in Florida.
For instance, it’s illegal to manufacture or transport a firebomb with the intent of causing property damage. It’s also against the law to destroy, remove, or tamper with equipment and vehicles firefighters use to detect and extinguish fires. This includes fire hydrants and other tools.
Interfering with a firefighter’s ability to extinguish a fire is also illegal.
The charge for these three crimes is a third-degree felony. Offenders face a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
Potential Defenses to Arson Charges
A criminal defense lawyer from a reputable law firm can help craft a defense strategy for your arson charge. Since lawyers typically offer a free case evaluation, it’s worth your time and money to build the attorney-client relationship immediately upon receiving the charge. This way, your lawyer has enough time to build a strong defense.
It’s important to understand that setting fires isn’t always illegal. For example, if you had a land clearing permit, your lawyer could show you had the right to light the fire. Additionally, you have the right to burn your property if you don’t have an ulterior criminal motive, such as revenge or insurance fraud.
Also, accidentally starting a fire isn’t a crime. For instance, it’s not arson if a backyard bonfire spreads out of control.
Conversely, if the proof against you is weak, you may be able to enter a plea deal for criminal mischief, which is often a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Facing Potential Penalties for Arson in Florida? Mike G. Law Is Here to Help
These are just a few examples of the many possible defenses. During your initial consultation, your lawyer will determine the best strategy for your criminal offense. At Mike G Law, we conduct thorough pre-file investigations to ensure the best possible outcome for your arson case.
The penalties for arson in Florida are severe, and you shouldn’t take them lightly. So if you’re facing an arson charge, get help now from the law offices of Mike G. in Tampa, FLA.
We offer a free consultation with one of our top criminal defense attorneys to evaluate how we can best assist you.