If you are accused of or suspected of arson, you should retain a Las Vegas criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Arson is a serious crime in Nevada and carries harsh penalties. Even people who are not directly responsible for a fire can be charged with a felony for arson.
A defense attorney can explain your rights, represent you in court, and work to lower your sentence or have the case for arson dismissed entirely to avoid having felony charges on your record in the future.
Arson is more than setting a fire. The prosecutor must prove to the court that a fire was set deliberately and maliciously.
Car fires, home and mobile home fires, vacant land fires, and other personal property fires, if they were started by a deliberate and malicious act, can be the basis for arson charges. The person who sets the fire does not have to own the property to be charged with arson.
Simple scorching or charring of one part of a building or vehicle is enough to support arson charges in Nevada. The complete structure or vehicle does not need to burn.
Arson is not an accidental fire. Experts agree that this is what makes arson one of the most difficult crimes to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must prove that the alleged arsonist specifically intended to start a fire, because simply playing with matches when a fire breaks out is not enough.
There is one exception to the rule that arson is not an accidental fire. If a person deliberately and maliciously sets fire to a certain building, and the fire spreads to a building that person did not intend to burn, he or she may still be liable for arson as to the second building, even if he or she did not mean to set fire to it.
A qualified Las Vegas arson attorney is the best person to present accidental fire as your arson defense. In many cases, the charge can be reduced to the less serious crime of reckless endangerment.
In reckless endangerment cases that do not result in death or injury of a person, the crime is a gross misdemeanor. Nevada gross misdemeanor reckless endangerment carries up to 364 days in a city jail, such as the Clark County Detention Center, and up to $2,000 in fines.
If someone did die or get seriously hurt as a result of a fire set with reckless endangerment, the punishment increases to a Category C felony. In Nevada, this carries a sentence of 1 to 5 years and fines up to $10,000.
Aiding and abetting a person who burns a structure or vehicle also constitutes arson and is punished in the same way.
Nick Wooldridge has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in Nevada.
If you are convicted of arson in Nevada, there are four possible sentences that may be imposed. The punishment depends on the type of property burned. In addition to the punishments set out below, the court may also require a person convicted arson to pay court costs, the costs of firefighters and police who came to the scene, and the costs of investigating the fire.
Arson in the first degree (also referred to as first degree arson) is reserved for cases involving a residence, a mobile home, or personal property that is occupied by someone. This is a Category B felony in Nevada, punishable by a minimum of 2 years in Nevada state prison and up to 15 years depending on the facts of the case. It also carries a maximum $15,000 fine.
Arson in the second degree (also called second degree arson) charges apply to any abandoned structure that is set on fire. Like first degree arson, second degree arson is also a Category B felony with a minimum of 2 years in prison. The maximum prison time for arson second degree is ten years. A fine may also be set, up to $10,000.
Third degree arson (or arson in the third degree) involves personal property (property other than real estate) and agricultural land and products, like timber. It is a Category D felony in Nevada, which carries a minimum prison sentence of 1 year, up to 4 years, and a fine up to $5,000.
Arson in the fourth degree (fourth degree arson) is charged in cases where the fire was not set, but the would-be arsonist prepared for or attempted to burn property mentioned in the first, second, and third degree arson categories.
Nevada arson law states that placing flammable materials in or around the property is sufficient evidence to prove fourth degree arson. Like third degree arson, fourth degree arson is a Category D felony with prison time up to 4 years and fines up to $5,000.
Defrauding an insurance company by setting fire to a property is the most classic case of arson that we are all familiar with. Nevada has a separate crime for arson with the intent to defraud an insurance company. It is a Category B felony, which has a minimum 1 year sentence. The judge can impose up to 6 years in prison, as well as $5,000 in fines. If you are convicted, you must also pay restitution, which is the amount paid by the insurance company to repair the building or property burned.