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Dallas Arson Defense Lawyer

Arson is about so much more than intentionally setting fire to a structure. You can be charged with arson for fooling around with fireworks, starting an illegal campfire, or causing an explosion while cooking a controlled substance. Some people are accused of arson as a form of insurance fraud, knowing that they stand to collect money if their boat, home, or vehicle goes up in flames. Take advantage of your right to a vigorous criminal defense and call Dallas arson defense attorney Jeff King today for a free case evaluation. Don’t settle for any less than the best when your freedom and reputation are at stake.

What Is Arson?

Arson is defined as the willful and malicious burning of property. Arson crimes range from intentionally setting fire to one’s own property to collect insurance money, to forest fires caused by human activity, to the “firebug” pyromaniac who simply enjoys burning structures. Texas allows the prosecution of individuals even when the fire burned out, without causing any damage – so long as lawyers can argue the “intent to cause harm.” Arson may be considered a state felony, or a federal felony, when there is a potential to cause injuries or death.

What Are Different Degrees of Arson?

Texas Penal Code § 28.02 recognizes three degrees of arson:

  • First Degree – Felony arson involves an individual who knowingly starts a fire that causes bodily injury or death; it is also a felony if the property damaged or destroyed was a home, place of assembly, or place of worship.
  • Second Degree – A person sets vegetation, fencing, a building, or vehicle on fire with intent to damage or destroy, knowing that: it belongs to another person, it is reckless to do so, or it holds some insurance value.
  • Third Degree – A person starts an unoccupied vehicle or building on fire as a result of reckless conduct, rather than malicious intent to harm someone. Sometimes these charges can be plead down to “criminal mischief,” which carries less serious sentencing.

 

The motivations for starting a fire have significant bearing on the types of charges filed. The person who burns down his own house to collect insurance money, or who is attempting to hide a crime will be judged much differently than the accidental fire caused by attempting to clear backyard brush.

Arson Penalties and Prison Terms in Texas

If convicted, arson charges can be devastating for a defendant living in Dallas, Texas. Punishments may include:

 

  • Jail Time For ArsonJail time for arson ranges from five to 99 years for a first degree felony; two to 20 years for a second degree felony; or two to 10 years for a third degree felony. Even a third degree state jail felony results in a minimum of 180 days in prison, ranging up to two years. Third degree arson is usually classified as a “non-violent” offense, which increases the chance for parole.
  • Penalty For ArsonThe penalties for arson may include fines of up to $10,000, plus court-ordered restitution to cover the cost of repairs to the damaged property.

 

People charged with arson can also be charged with homicide if one or more persons were fatally wounded in the fire. 

Legal Defenses For Arson

A good arson defense starts with immediate access to top fire and crime scene investigators. Experienced insurance company experts and police officers are the first on the scene, so it is imperative to get involved immediately to make sure the defense team has the same access to critical evidence. Jury education is the next step in placing the burden of proof on prosecutors. Skillful cross-examination with the help of fire investigators is necessary to expose gaps in the other side’s understanding of how the fire started.

 

Legal defenses may include:

  • The accused has a rock-solid alibi and could not have started the fire.
  • There is insufficient evidence to prove how the fire started or who started it.
  • The accused did not intend to start the fire or to cause harm.
  • The accused started the fire, but did not intend to cause harm.
  • The accused started the fire, but was mentally incapacitated at the time.
  • There is reasonable doubt, as there are other possible cause-and-effect explanations that cannot be disproven.

What Should I Do If Accused of Arson?

Dallas, TX Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeff King will make sure your rights are not infringed upon if you have been charged with a property crime like arson. Law enforcement professionals will be equipped with the latest technology and forensic experts to prove their case against you. Investigators also closely examine many facets of your life to determine a motivation or pin you for intent to harm. With over 14 years of experience and more than 1,000 successful trial verdicts, Jeff King has experience dealing with the most complex cases involving witness testimony and forensic evidence. Call now for a free consultation.

Additional arson legal defense resources

  1. Texas Penal Code, Title 7, CHAPTER 28. ARSON, CRIMINAL MISCHIEF, AND OTHER PROPERTY DAMAGE OR DESTRUCTION, http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.28.htm
  2. Find Law – TX Penal Code 28-2, http://codes.findlaw.com/tx/penal-code/penal-sect-28-02.html#sthash.DUXXcC1l.dpuf

 

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JEFFERY KING, PLLC.
2626 Cole Ave.
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Dallas, Texas 75204
T: 469-399-7001
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