Arson is taken very seriously in the state of Florida and treated as a felony offense, which entails huge fines and decades spent in state prison. If you have been charged with arson, you are likely very concerned about the possible consequences upon conviction and should immediately seek representation from a qualified Sarasota property crimes lawyer. Attorney Erika Valcarcel understands the devastation an arson charge can have on a person’s life. With ample experience as both a prosecutor and a defender, she can anticipate the prosecution’s strategy in order to craft an effective defense. She will work tirelessly to ensure that you are not taken advantage of in the court of law.
Call (941) 363-7900 today to see how your charges can be reduced or dismissed, if possible.
According to Section 806.01 of Florida Statutes, arson is characterized as willfully and unlawfully using fire or explosion to cause damage to a dwelling, a structure that would normally contain people, or any other structure that could be reasonably expected to contain a human being. This can include hospitals, jails, nursing homes, health care facilities, churches, and schools. The lesser form of arson is defined as using fire or explosion to destroy or cause damage to a structure that does not typically house people, such as an abandoned barn or a woodshed. In regards to both forms of the crime, the term structure is specified as any building, any enclosed structure with a roof, tents, portable buildings, and any vehicles, vessels, watercraft, or aircraft.
Penalties and Collateral Consequences
Arson is arguably the most serious property crime in the state of Florida. It is always classified as a felony, but the severity of the punishment depends on the type of structure that was damaged. Arson involving a structure that normally houses or contains people is filed as a first degree felony, whereas arson committed against any other structure is considered a felony in the second degree. Someone being harmed as a result of the arson can result in additional charges. A normal injury can lead to an additional first degree misdemeanor charge, but causing great bodily harm can tack on another second degree felony. The penalties for arson include, but are not limited to:
- First Degree Felony: A fine of up to $15,000 and up to life in prison
- Second Degree Felony: A fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison
In addition to criminal sentencing, collateral consequences exist that can haunt you for life. Finding a job once you are released from prison might be all but impossible, as few employers jump at the chance to hire someone with a criminal record. Going back to school might also be difficult. Most colleges and universities thoroughly vet applicants before admitting them, and most scholarships are off-limits to those with conviction histories.
Let Valcarcel Protect Your Freedom
The most effective way of negating the consequences of an arson charge is by avoiding conviction altogether. A skilled attorney can use a number of defenses to get your charges reduced or eliminated in court. One of the most effective strategies for maintaining your freedom is proving that the act was not willful. Perhaps you fell asleep with a cigarette in your hand, or maybe a loose wire on your electronic device created a spark. You cannot be charged with arson if the cause of the fire or explosion was not the result of a willful act. It might also be the case that you are the victim of mistaken identity. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, making it entirely possible that you falsely accused.
An arson charge can wreak havoc on every aspect of your life. From a ruined career to the lost trust of loved ones, there is no area left unaffected. Sarasota property crimes lawyer Erika Valcarcel knows that this accusation can lay waste to everything you have worked so hard to establish. She believes that the key to mounting a successful defense is listening to your side of the story and collecting all of the available evidence in order to advocate on your behalf and present your case in the best possible light.