Pyromaniacs are far and few between. More commonly, aggravated arson and other arson related offenses occur when an individual starts backyard fire but fails to properly control it or the individual attempts to burn down their house or business in search of insurance money. In those rare instances where an individual purposely set out to burn down a house or place of business in an effort to cause harm to another, then aggravated arson charges and possibly aggravated assault or murder charges may also follow. Aggravated arson is a second degree crime that carries up to 10 years in prison. Additionally, aggravated arson falls under the umbrella of No Early Release Act (NERA) which requires that you serve 85% of your sentence before you even become eligible for parole.
What is Aggravated Arson in Bordentown NJ?
In order for the defendant to be found guilty of aggravated arson, the State must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1)That the defendant purposely started a fire/caused an explosion on his/her own property or another’s; and (2) that the act of starting the fire or causing the explosion:
Purposely or knowingly placed another person in danger of death or bodily injury: or
Was done with the purpose of destroying a building or structure of another; or
Was done with the purpose of collecting insurance for the destruction or damage to such property under circumstances which recklessly placed any other person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
Was done with the purpose of destroying or damaging a structure in order to exempt that structure, completely or partially, from the effect of certain legal regulation, under circumstances which recklessly placed any other person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
Was done with the purpose of destroying or damaging any forest.
What Qualifies as a “Structure” and “Property” under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1?
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(f), “structure” means any building, room, ship, vessel, car, vehicle or airplane, and also means any place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or for carrying on business therein, whether or not a person is actually present. “Property” is that of another . . . if any one other than the actor has a possessory, or legal or equitable proprietary interest therein. Property is that of another. . .if anyone other than the actor has a legal or equitable interest in the property including, but not limited to, a mortgage, pledge, lien or security interest therein. If a building or structure is divided into separately occupied units, any unit not occupied by the actor is an occupied structure of another.
The “Lighting a Match” Theory
Is the act of lighting matches and throwing them in the ground sufficient to prove that an individual “purposefully” started a fire? Thanks to State in the Interest of M.N.,we know that this is not the case. In State in the Interest of M.N., a juvenile was casually lighting matches and then throwing the lit match onto the ground as he walked through his neighbor’s property on M.N.’s way home. This led to a large fire breaking out and the subsequent arrest and adjudication of delinquency of M.N. However, upon appeal the Appellate Division took up the argument of “purposefulness” in M.N.’s behavior and whether the act of through a lit match carelessly rose to the level of “purposefully starting a fire”. The judges concluded that the act of lighting a match, by itself, is insufficient evidence that defendant purposely started a fire. Defense attorneys can now use this case as a basis for challenging the mental state of a defendant charged with arson where the facts of the case lend themselves to such a argument.
Pemberton Aggravated Arson Lawyers
Aggravated arson is a second degree crime that carries up to 10 years of incarceration in a New Jersey State Penitentiary. If convicted of a second degree offense, the court has a presumption of incarceration, thus making a prison sentence likely. Additionally, the legislation known as the No Early Release Act (NERA) is triggered for an aggravated arson conviction. This means that the defendant must serve at least 85% of the imposed court sentence before becoming parole eligible. Fines associated with an aggravated arson offense can reach up to $150,000.00.
Any arrest or indictment related to arson charges should be handled with extreme care. Aggravated arson charges will likely result in prison, if convicted or plead guilty. Contact an experienced Burlington County attorney for your criminal representation needs. Do not allow the prosecutor to steamroll you or your attorney into a guilty plea without first assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your individual case. Our firm is available to consult with your, free of charge, about how we can help you with your matter. Call today at 609-850-8284 and protect your constitutional rights.
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