Arson is a serious property crime that can result in heavy fines and incarceration. Michigan has a high rate of vacant homes and buildings, which are often destroyed in deliberate fires. In Lansing, the problem has reached such proportions that anyone who provides information leading to an arson arrest will receive a $5,000 award. The problem is, this award might offer an incentive for people to make false accusations. If you are suspected or charged with arson, you need to act now and call an experienced Lansing arson lawyer.
Do not plead guilty to an arson charge until you have consulted with a lawyer. The prosecutor in your case may try to convince you that pleading guilty is your best option and that you’ll only make matters worse if you don’t. In reality, there may be several defense strategies available to you, and you may stand a good chance at winning your case.
What Are The Penalties For Arson?
Arson consists in willfully or maliciously destroying a building, structure or property by fire. The penalties you will face if you are convicted depend on the circumstances of the arson, such as the type of building and whether it was occupied. Michigan law divides arson into the following categories:
- First-degree arson (MPC 750.72) – If you burn down a multi-unit residential building, a mine or any other structure in a way that causes an injury, you may be sentenced to prison for any number of years up to life. In addition, you may have to pay fines of $20,000 or three times the value of the destroyed property – whichever is greater.
- Second-degree arson (MPC 750.73) – This offense applies when the arson involves a single-unit dwelling. If convicted, you may face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and fines of $20,000 or three times the value of the property you allegedly destroyed.
- Third-degree arson (MPC 750.74) – A prosecutor will charge you under this statute if the building you are accused of setting fire to is not covered by first- or second-degree arson. You may also get charged with third-degree arson if you burn more than $20,000 worth of personal or real property. The penalty for this offense may reach 10 years in prison along with fines of $20,000 or three times the value of the destroyed property.
- Fourth-degree arson (MPC 750.75) – If you destroy by fire or explosion property worth between $1,000 and $20,000, are accused of a second arson offense involving property valued at $200 or more, or willfully or negligently set fire to vacant property owned by someone else, you may face up to five years behind bars along with fines of $10,000 or three times the value of the burned property.
- Fifth-degree arson (MPC 750.77) – When the property you allegedly destroyed is worth less than $1,000, arson is a misdemeanor carrying a one-year jail sentence and thousands of dollars in fines. When the property is worth less than $200, the maximum jail sentence decreases to 93 days and the fines will be around $500.
- Attempted or assisting arson (MPC 750.79) – It’s illegal to attempt to commit arson or to help another person carry through with arson. You may get charged even if you don’t actually set a fire, or if no buildings are destroyed. As with actual arson, the penalties depend on the value of the destroyed property and your prior convictions.
- Arson of insured property (MPC 750.76) – When there is evidence that you burned down insured property with the intent of collecting on an insurance policy, you may face serious penalties. If the insured property is a dwelling, the penalty is the same as first-degree arson. For any other type of structure, the penalty is similar to second-degree arson. For all other types of property, the penalty range is the same as third-degree arson.
Collateral Consequences Of An Arson Conviction
In addition to the criminal penalties outlined above, you will also need to contend with the collateral consequences of an arson conviction. These may include:
- Paying the cost of litigating your case in court
- Dealing with a permanent criminal record that can keep you from getting a good job or gaining access to higher education
- Not being able to get the licenses necessary to practice professions such as law, nursing or even child care
- For felons, revoked right to own arms and restricted voting rights
- For immigrants, possible deportation
How Can A Lansing Arson Defense Attorney From DeBruin Law, PLLC, Help?
When you’ve been charged with arson, your freedom, finances and reputation are in serious jeopardy. With so much at stake, you should make sure that you have an experienced Lansing arson attorney by your side to maximize your chances of obtaining a positive case resolution. Depending on the circumstances of your case, several criminal defense strategies in Michigan may be available to you.
One of the most effective ways of defending an arson case is to challenge the prosecutor’s evidence. The prosecutor may try to prove that you are guilty by using witness testimony, your own statements or even security camera footage. Your lawyer may be able to show that the witnesses are untrustworthy, that your alleged confession was obtained in violation of your rights and that the footage does not conclusively show that you were at the scene. As long as there is a reasonable doubt concerning your guilt, there is a good chance that you will be acquitted of the charges.
If you want to find out more about how you can fight back against your Lansing arson charges, you’ll need to talk to a Lansing criminal defense lawyer. At DeBruin Law, PLLC, we are dedicated to putting all of our resources toward achieving a good case outcome for each and every one of our clients.