If you have been accused of arson, your future rests on the effectiveness of your criminal defense attorney. Establishing the cause of an explosion or fire often involves speculation and conjecture regarding its origin and intention, making it far too easy for someone like you to be penalized unfairly. However, an attorney may be able to protect you from the life-altering consequences of a felony conviction and help you avoid suffering due to aggressive criminal prosecution or misinterpretation of evidence.
Call the Berry Law Firm immediately if you are charged with arson or fear you may be arrested following a recent fire or explosion. By securing representation as soon as possible, you decrease your chances of incriminating yourself and of being misunderstood by law enforcement. Allow our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys assist you in fighting your arson charges.
Legal Definition of Arson in Nebraska
First Degree Arson
A person is considered to have committed first degree arson if they either:
“…intentionally damage a building or property contained within a building by starting a fire or causing an explosion when another person is present in the building at the time and either (a) the actor knows that fact, or (b) the circumstances are such as to render the presence of a person therein a reasonable probability.”
“…if a fire is started or an explosion is caused in the perpetration of any robbery, burglary, or felony criminal mischief when another person is present in the building at the time and either (a) the actor knows that fact, or (b) the circumstances are such as to render the presence of a person therein a reasonable probability.”
In first degree arson, the whole building does not have to become ignited. It refers to a fire that was started and damaged the building when a person was present inside the building. It is considered a Class II Felony.
Second Degree Arson
Second degree arson is defined as:
“…if he or she intentionally damages a building or property contained within a building by starting a fire or causing an explosion or if a fire is started or an explosion is caused in the perpetration of any robbery, burglary, or felony criminal mischief.”
As established by State v. Workman, to maintain a conviction for arson in this degree it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt that burning was the willful act of the accused. Second degree arson is considered a Class III felony.
Third Degree Arson
Arson in the third degree is defined as follows:
“he or she intentionally sets fire to, burns, causes to be burned, or by the use of any explosive, damages or destroys, or causes to be damaged or destroyed, any property of another person without such other person’s consent. Such property shall not be contained within a building and shall not be a building or occupied structure.”
The penalty for third degree arson is based upon the damages caused by the crime. It is considered a Class IV felony if the damages are $1,500 or more; however, the State must prove the amount of damages to property beyond a reasonable doubt for it to be considered a Class IV felony. Third degree arson is considered a Class I misdemeanor if the damages range between $500 and $1,500, and a Class II misdemeanor if the damages are less than $500.
What Are the Penalties for Arson in Nebraska?
Since arson is split into three degrees of severity, the penalties change for each degree. First degree arson is considered a Class I felony. This can result in up to 50 years imprisonment. The penalties for second degree arson, a class III felony, could include up to four years imprisonment and/or a $25,000 fine, as well as post-release supervision. Penalties for arson in the third degree depend on the damage caused. The possible penalties for certain damages are as follows
- $1,500 or more (Class IV felony) – up to two years imprisonment with post release supervision and/or a $10,000 fine.
- $500-$1,500 (Class I misdemeanor) – up to one-year imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.
- $500 or less (Class II misdemeanor) – up to six months imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.
Can I Be Penalized for Burning My Own Property?
Your property can be destroyed lawfully if you are burning structures that are allowed by law, such as structures that no longer carry value for business or living or are no longer useful in the area. Burning your own property may also be allowed if it is being burned for educational purposes as well. In some instances, a permit may be required for an open burn. Contact your local fire department regarding permit guidelines.
Burning your own property can be considered unlawful and result in penalty if it’s with the intent to deceive or harm an insurer. This is considered a Class IV felony and therefore could result in up to two years imprisonment, post release supervision, and/or a $10,000 fine.
Defending Arson Charges
Berry Law can assist you in your defense against arson charges. In certain instances, they can possibly reduce sentences or fines. An experienced attorney can help you navigate an arson charge and help you avoid the maximum penalty. If you or a loved one are facing arson charges, please call to speak with a member of Berry Law’s criminal defense team today.