Arson is a criminal offense under New Jersey law that consists of starting a fire or causing an explosion that damages property and/or puts a person in danger of injury or death. Arson charges may be based on a fire on an alleged offender’s own property or another’s property. New Jersey recognizes four degrees of arson, with first-degree arson being punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
If you face an arson charge in New Jersey, you need to engage a criminal defense lawyer experienced with arson and other property crime cases as soon as possible if you are to avoid serving time in prison and/or paying thousands of dollars in fines.
At the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our seasoned New Jersey criminal defense team offers the advantage of extensive experience in handling arson and other property crimes. We provide a strategic criminal defense based on the facts of your case to help you refute arson charges and avoid punishment that you do not deserve.
Among the credentials that our N.J. criminal defense team offers are:
- 10 defense lawyers whose legal practices are dedicated to representing individuals facing criminal charges
- More than 200 years of combined experience in courtrooms across New Jersey defending individuals accused of property crimes such as arson
- Certified criminal trial attorneys, a distinction conferred by the Supreme Court of New Jersey that less than 2% of lawyers in New Jersey have earned
- A legal team consisting of former public defenders and prosecutors from across New Jersey who have led local crime units that include a Major Crimes Bureau, Guns Task Force, Special Operations Unit and Domestic Violence Unit, as well as an entire Trial Division
- A track record of countless trials ending in dismissal of charges against our clients
- 24/7 availability to secure your release from custody and/or to begin our investigation of the case against you.
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has earned its reputation based on successfully defending clients in courtrooms across New Jersey. To meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you, phone (877) 450-8301 or complete our online form now. In a free initial consultation, we can explain the charges you face, outline your legal options and how decisions you make now may impact your future.
The Crime of Arson in New Jersey
Just about any fire you set without obtaining an open burning permit and/or fail to control may be considered arson and lead to criminal charges under New Jersey law. It is often thought that burning your own property cannot lead to an arson charge, but this is untrue.
The crime of arson is described in NJ Rev Stat § 2C:17-1 (2014). Under these statutes, arson is:
- A fourth-degree offense punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if you to fail to report a fire or make a reasonable attempt to control a dangerous fire when you can do so without substantial risk to yourself.
- A third-degree offense punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 if you purposely start a fire or cause an explosion that:
- Recklessly places another person in danger of death or bodily injury
- Recklessly places someone else’s building or structure in danger of damage or destruction
- Recklessly places a forest in danger of damage or destruction
- Is set with intent to collect an insurance payment
- Is set to exempt the structure from zoning, planning or building law, regulation, or ordinance.
- Known as aggravated arson, a second-degree offense punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, if you start a fire or cause an explosion that:
- Purposely or knowingly places another person in danger of death or bodily injury
- Is meant to destroy someone else’s building or structure
- Is meant to destroy a forest
- Is set to collect an insurance payment and recklessly places another person in danger of death or bodily injury
- Is set to exempt the structure from zoning, planning or building law, regulation, or ordinance, and recklessly places another person in danger of death or bodily injury.
An aggravated arson conviction also subjects the defendant to New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2). That requires that the defendant serve 85% of his or her prison term before becoming eligible for parole.
- A first-degree offense punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison without parole and up to 20 years and a fine of up to $200,000 if the target of the fire or explosion was a church, synagogue, temple or other place of public worship.
An arson or aggravated arson charge that alleges a fire or explosion was set to collect an insurance payment will likely be accompanied by insurance fraud charges, which we can also assist with.
Fires are highly destructive, and firefighters who respond to them may be put in danger of serious injury or death. Prosecutors will work to obtain a conviction and seek stiff penalties in an arson case. However, the variance in charges and punishments available in an arson case may provide the opportunity to negotiate a reduced charge and/or sentence.
Successful negotiations require your defense attorney to have the knowledge and experience to understand the legal options available to help you. It also requires your attorney to have working relationships with local prosecutors that are helpful to negotiating a plea agreement or reduction in charges. If you don’t have such a seasoned criminal defense lawyer working for you, you can expect the prosecutor to seek the harshest sentence that the judge will hand down in an arson case.
To have the best chance of obtaining a favorable resolution of your case, it is crucial to retain a criminal defense attorney with hands-on courtroom experience as soon as possible after being arrested or indicted for arson. Contact an N.J. arson attorney at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall as soon as you can for a free consultation and a prompt response to your legal needs.
How Our NJ Arson Property Crime Defense Lawyers Can Help
In New Jersey, all fires are considered accidental until they are proven to be intentionally set. “Intention” is also the basis of aggravated arson charges. Without a guilty plea, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a fire or explosion was arson and that you were responsible for setting it to obtain a conviction.
You should never face an arson charge alone, and you should never plead guilty without your attorney’s advice to do so. You have a Constitutional right to a robust legal defense that thoroughly challenges the arson property crime case against you.
It is not uncommon for police to make an arrest or seek indictment without fully understanding the circumstances surrounding a fire that is ruled to be arson. Every day, defendants charged under New Jersey’s broad definition of arson have charges dropped or reduced or are found not guilty.
Once you have engaged an arson defense attorney at the Law Offices of Jonathan Marshall, we will start a thorough investigation into the charges against you. We will obtain statements from you and any witnesses you or our investigation direct us to and will question the prosecution’s witnesses. We will also examine police and fire reports and other physical evidence related to the arson case.
Actions taken at the outset of a fire scene investigation can play a pivotal role in the resolution of an arson case. Many agencies have programs in fire and arson scene processing. But the level of training and resources available varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
The interpretation of fire dynamics and physical evidence at a fire scene involves forensic science. The destructive power of the fire compromises evidence from the outset. Conclusions about the nature of the fire and its cause may be challenged by a review of fire and police reports. Our investigation may prompt us to seek to have evidence excluded. We will also cross-examine prosecution witnesses and/or present our own expert witness testimony if your case goes to trial.
We will examine the possibility of police or prosecutorial misconduct or similar flaws in your arrest on arson charges, such as:
- Illegal search and seizure
- Faulty suspect lineup / mistaken identity
- Witnesses who are not credible
- Faulty or fabricated testimony
- Bias due to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, or socio-economic class.
Because of the years our team of attorneys has worked in local jurisdictions across New Jersey, we have the professional relationships necessary to reach out to prosecutors and have our proposals receive consideration. Depending on the facts of the case, we may be able to negotiate for arson charges to be reduced as part of a plea bargain or dismissed. In some cases, it may be possible to make restitution to the owner of the property destroyed in a fire in exchange for dropping charges.
We may be able to arrange a plea that leads to Conditional Discharge probation or Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), programs meant to keep nonviolent first-offenders out of the New Jersey correctional system. New Jersey’s Veterans’ Diversion program allows active service members and veterans accused of nonviolent crimes to avoid trial if they have been diagnosed with mental illness or have exhibited signs of mental illness.
Your attorneys from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will fight to resolve your case in a manner that has the least adverse impact on you and your future. If your case goes to trial, we will build a solid defense and use our criminal trial experience to defend you. The sooner we are involved in your case, the better the opportunity we have to help you.
Contact Our N.J. Arson Defense Attorneys Today
If you face arson charges in New Jersey, exercise your right to remain silent and call our experienced criminal defense attorneys at the first opportunity. Our team will move promptly to examine the charges against you and prepare a defense aimed at achieving the best available legal resolution to your case.
Don’t risk potentially severe punishment and a permanent record for a lapse of judgment or a misunderstanding. If you face arson charges anywhere in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall online or at (877) 450-8301 now for a free legal consultation at any of our nine N.J. offices.