There are thousands of fires every year in the state of Florida. Some of these fires are caused by accident, whereas others are intentional. If you deliberately start a fire that causes damage, you may face arson charges in Florida.
Every state has its own laws regarding arson. What are the different arson charges you may face in Florida? Is this crime classified as a misdemeanor or felony? A Tampa criminal defense attorney can review the details of your case and help you understand your legal options. But for now, keep reading to learn more about this serious criminal offense.
How Many Arsons Occur in Florida?
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reports that there were 1,212 arson offenses reported to authorities in this state in 2018. Most of these offenses—841 of them, to be exact—were committed in properties that were inhabited.
Even though over 1,200 arson offenses were reported, only 247 arrests related to arson were made during this same timeframe. The vast majority of these people who were arrested were adults, but 57 of them were minors at the time of their arrest.
First Degree vs. Second Degree Arson in Florida
There are two different arson charges that you may face in the state of Florida: first degree arson and second degree arson.
A person commits first degree arson if they intentionally start a fire or start a fire while committing a felony that causes damage to:
- Any dwelling, which is a building such as a home or apartment complex, regardless of whether or not there are people inside at the time of the fire.
- Any structure where people are normally present such as hospitals, jails, schools, churches, retail stores, and more.
- Any other type of building or structure that the defendant knew or had reason to believe was occupied at the time of the crime.
The crime of first degree arson is a first degree felony in the state of Florida. If you are convicted of this crime, you can face up to 30 years in prison in addition to thousands of dollars in fines.
A person commits second degree arson if intentionally start a fire or start a fire while committing a felony that damages any property not covered by first degree arson. This crime is classified as a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison in addition to thousands of dollars in fines.
What If Arson Results in Injuries?
You can face additional charges on top of these first degree and second degree felony arson charges if someone is injured as a result of the fire you intentionally caused.
If you commit any type of arson that injures a firefighter or any other person, you can face an additional charge of arson resulting in injury to another. You can be charged with this crime regardless of whether or not you started the fire with the intent to harm someone. This is a first degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail in addition to substantial fines.
The crime of arson resulting in injury to another becomes more serious if the victim is severely injured. If you commit any type of arson that causes a firefighter or someone else to suffer great bodily harm, a permanent disability or permanent disfigurement, this crime becomes a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Remember, these charges can be filed independently or in addition to first degree or second degree felony arson charges. This means you can be convicted of both arson resulting in injury to another and first or second degree arson. It also means you can be convicted of arson resulting in injury to another even if you aren’t convicted of first degree or second degree arson.
What Are the Laws Regarding Arson and Insurance Fraud?
In Florida, there are separate laws for arson crimes that are committed with the intent to defraud an insurance company. If you willfully attempt to or start a fire with the intent to defraud an insurance company, you can be charged with burning to defraud the insurer.
Burning to defraud the insurer is a third degree felony in Florida, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
What Are the Other Arson Laws in Florida?
There are several other laws related to the crime of arson in Florida. For example, if you own, manufacture, or transport a fire bomb with the intent that the fire bomb be used to cause damage to property, you can face third degree felony charges. The law defines a “fire bomb” as a container with flammable liquid or any other type of chemical mixture or compound that can be ignited.
You can also face criminal charges for destroying, removing, or interfering with vehicles, tools, hydrants, and other equipment that is used to detect, report, or extinguish fires. This crime is also a third degree felony, which means you can face up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines if convicted.
Attempting to or successfully interfering with or hindering a firefighter’s ability to extinguish a fire can also result in third degree felony charges.
Discuss Your Legal Options With A Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing arson charges in the state of Florida, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from a skilled criminal defense attorney at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Our attorneys have over 125 years of combined legal experience and have helped more than 15,000 clients fight their criminal charges. Because of our extensive experience, we know what it takes to reach the best possible outcome in a criminal case.
Your future is on the line—let us fight to protect it. Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation regarding your criminal case.