Philadelphia Arson Defense Lawyer
The act of arson, which involves intentionally destroying property with fire, is one of the most serious offenses that a person can be charged within Philadelphia. The majority of arson crimes are felonies under state law, and several are subject to statutory sentencing provisions that allow for above average fines and prison sentences if the defendant is convicted.
Due to the grave consequences that can result from an arson charge or related offense, as well as the sophisticated forensic techniques that are required to investigate and analyze arson-related crimes, it is imperative to be represented by a highly experienced Philadelphia arson attorney. If you or one of your family members was arrested for arson or related crimes in the Philadelphia area – whether of a home, an apartment building, a commercial property, a government property, or a piece of land – you should contact a skilled Philadelphia arson lawyer immediately for help.
For a free legal consultation with our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers, contact the Law Offices of Lloyd Long online or by calling (215) 302-0171. Calls are answered 24 hours a day.
Aggravated Arson and Reckless Burning in Philadelphia
Most people think of arson as the act of deliberately burning down a building, or setting fire to a plot of land, sometimes for the purpose of collecting insurance money for fire damage. However, the law in PA distinguishes between multiple types of arson offenses. The specific crime that a suspected arsonist will be charged with depends on factors like:
- The defendant’s intent at the time of the alleged offense.
- Whether the defendant reported, or made other efforts to control, the blaze.
- Whether the offense endangered people or property.
- Whether the property or item burned was “historic.”
Using these and other criteria, state law distinguishes between more than half a dozen different types of arson and related offenses. These distinctions are important for defendants, because they directly affect the penalties the defendant will face, such as jail or prison time, fines, and/or possibly probation. The Law Office of Lloyd Long handles an array of arson charges in Philadelphia, including:
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(a)– Arson Endangering Persons
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(a.1)– Aggravated Arson
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(a.2)– Arson of Historic Resource
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(c)– Arson Endangering Property
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(d)– Reckless Burning or Exploding
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(d.1)– Dangerous Burning
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(e)– Failure to Control or Report Dangerous Fires
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(f)– Possession of Explosive or Incendiary Materials or Devices
Is Arson a Felony in Philadelphia?
Nearly all arson offenses are classified as felonies, which are more serious and therefore carry greater penalties than misdemeanors. There are only two arson-related offenses which are not felonies in Pennsylvania are (1) failure to control or report dangerous fires, which is a misdemeanor, and (2) dangerous burning, which is a summary offense. Summary offenses are minor offenses that carry the lightest penalties. By comparison, felonies and even misdemeanors have more potential for damage to the defendant.
It’s important to understand that there are several levels of felony offenses. Though all felonies are serious, some carry lengthier prison sentences, and/or higher criminal fines, than others. The same is true of misdemeanor offenses, which are organized into different categories depending on their severity. Arson and related offenses are categorized, depending on the circumstances, as follows under state law.
Aggravated arson can be charged as either a first degree felony, or as murder of the second degree. Arson endangering persons is either a felony of the first degree, first degree murder, or second degree murder, depending on the circumstances. When arson endangers property, it is a second degree felony, which is slightly less serious but still a grave offense. It is also a felony of the second degree if the defendant commits arson of a historical resource. It is a felony of the third degree to possess explosive materials or devices, or incendiary materials or devices. It is also a third degree felony to commit the act of reckless burning or exploding. As noted above, failing to control or report fires is a misdemeanor of the first degree, while dangerous burning is considered a summary offense in Philadelphia.
As these classifications make clear, nearly all arson crimes are felonies under state law. Moreover, several forms of arson can lead to murder charges if the death of another human being results from the fire.
Arson Penalties in Philadelphia: Prison Sentencing and Fines
Jail sentences and prison sentences are set forth at 101 Pa. Code § 15.66. For example, under 101 Pa. Code § 15.66(4), a third degree felony is subject to a maximum prison sentence of up to seven years. To give another example, the sentence for a second degree felony under 101 Pa. Code § 15.66(3) is up to 10 years.
Though 101 Pa. Code § 15.66 generally establishes the jail and prison sentences for arson offenses in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s arson statutes create several enhanced, or extended, sentences for certain arson crimes. For example, a defendant who is convicted of aggravated arson may be sentenced to as many as 40 years in prison – up to twice the length of the 20-year maximum otherwise imposed for first degree felonies – if the following facts are true:
- A civilian sustained serious bodily injury.
- A firefighter or police officer sustained bodily injury.
“Bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury” are not just descriptive terms – they have specific legal meanings. “Bodily injury” simply means physical impairment or “substantial” pain, whereas “serious bodily injury” specifically means an injury that “creates a substantial risk of death or… causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
Hefty criminal fines, as well as lengthy prison or jail sentences, can also be enhanced for arson offenses in Philadelphia. Though Pennsylvania typically caps criminal fines at a maximum of $25,000 for felonies, the fine for certain arson crimes can be as high as $100,000, depending on the circumstances.
Get Legal Help from an Experienced Philadelphia Arson Defense Attorney
No matter what type of arson crime you have been accused of committing, skilled legal representation is essential to defending your rights, your reputation, and ultimately, your freedom. The sooner you contact the Law Office of Lloyd Long for assistance, the greater the likelihood of resolving your case favorably. Waiting to seek legal help will only remove options from the table and make it harder to handle the charges effectively. To arrange a free legal consultation about Philadelphia arson charges, or an ongoing arson investigation against you or a family member, contact the Law Offices of Lloyd Long for a free legal consultation, or call (215) 302-0171.