Arson is when a person intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion or even if he aids, counsels, pays or agrees to pay another, to cause a fire or explosion even if it’s his own property. Even the smallest of fires can carry arson charges. I once represented a junior high school student in an arson case charged with igniting a lavatory garbage can.
In just about every arson case, the Magisterial District Judge will set a monetary bail for the defendant. The magistrate wants to be sure the community is not at risk and that the defendant does not flee the jurisdiction.
Just about every arson charge is a felony and most convictions provide for incarceration. Arson cases are treated very seriously by law enforcement and the courts due to the potential of death or serious bodily injury faced by the victims of arson including firefighters and innocent bystanders.
The crime of arson is often investigated when insurance companies are asked to pay out under the terms of an insurance policy when there is significant damage due to a fire. Pennsylvania State Police arson investigators or Fire Marshals are highly trained and are often able to determine if the cause of a fire was accidental or intentional. When investigating a suspicious fire, law enforcement will often consider a potential suspect’s motive (financial or personal). Suspects with serious financial issue will be looked at closely where an insurance claim is made. Alibis are also closely examined.
A person charged with arson will be best served whenever possible, by hiring his or her own arson investigator through his or her attorney to attempt to determine the cause of the fire and to identify any weaknesses of the prosecution’s case.
Sometimes during plea negotiations, the felony charge of arson can be pleaded down to the misdemeanor charge of recklessly endangering another person. This avoids a felony conviction and possibly incarceration.
History shows that people who start fires usually have serious mental health issues that need to be addressed immediately. Most communities have mental health professionals who can treat and help people who start fires. If you or someone you know is in need of mental health counseling, contact our office and we will provide you with the names of mental health experts in your area.
If you are charged with or being investigated for the crime of arson, call or email us and we will be happy to review your case.