Crime Overview Arson

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In legal terms, arson is a crime that involves the setting or starting of a fire for various unlawful purposes or reasons. In most jurisdictions within the United States, arson is considered a felony and may result in various forms of punishment. Less serious arson cases may result in a very minor punishment or sentence, while other arson cases may result in the death penalty. It is important to note that arson is handled in various courts throughout the U.S. in many different ways.

Many states classify arson crimes into different categories or degrees, categorizing them by numerous factors. For obvious reasons, more serious categories or degrees of arson will result in stricter punishments for those convicted. For example, setting fire to a building which is known to be occupied can result in a more severe degree of arson than setting fire to an abandoned or empty building.

Arson can be broken down into two aspects, primary fires and secondary fires.

Primary fires are those that involve inhabited buildings, structures and other objects such as vehicles, storage facilities, or manufacturing machinery. Primary fires can also include those that involve casualties, and that require a large amount of fire rescue resources. All primary fire types can be classified as malicious, deliberate, or doubtful.

Secondary fires refer to fires that spread as a result of the primary fire. They also include outdoor property such as gardens, fences, and trash receptacles.

The recent wildfires that took place in Sydney, Australia are an example of primary fires and the magnitude they can reach. A man was charged with deliberately setting a brush fire, and because of the dry conditions, the fire spread quickly and ravaged many towns within Australia. The devastating wildfires destroyed massive spans of land, and killed at least 173 people. The fires also decimated 800 homes and displaced about 3,000 civilians. It was the most severe wildfire that in Australian history.

A person that commits arson that results in the death of one or more individuals may be charged and convicted of one or more counts of murder, usually considered first-degree murder. Since the death penalty is banned in some states, punishment in such cases could be life in prison.

Since arson is typically considered a felony in the United States, the convicted arsonist will receive federal or state prison time amounting to over one year. More serious arson cases will result in more than a year of prison time.

It is well known that vandalism often results in arson. Vandalism is commonly known as the intentional defacement or damage conducted by one or more persons to homes, buildings, and other properties. In most scenarios, juveniles and young adults are responsible for such crimes. Unfortunately, vandalism that causes or results in arson can often harm others.

Arson is a destructive crime that affects not only the victim, but the surrounding community as well. It can result in increased taxes to support the resources used by the law enforcement and fire departments in order to combat these deliberate fires. Arson can raise the price of insurance premiums for property owners in the area.

Like most criminal cases, it is highly recommended that a person charged with arson hire an attorney, particularly one with some experience in related cases. If the suspect cannot afford an attorney, the government will provide one at no cost. This right is provided to the suspect by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.