Arson is a serious criminal charge irrespective of the form of the offense you are facing. Each and every variety of an arson offense set forth under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1 is a felony. Simple arson is the least severe, with aggravated arson being more serious and arson for hire occupying the highest grade of indictable crime under the law (i.e. first degree).  Failure to Report or Control a fire, which also falls within the classification of an arson related offense, is also a felony but falls in the lowest grade of crime — a fourth degree. You clearly need to seek the assistance of a defense attorney if you are facing an variety of arson charge as all forms carrying the possibility of a state prison sentence. As one of the largest criminal firms in the state, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your case in a free consultation. Call one of our former prosecutors in Newark NJ at 973-710-1520 for immediate assistance.

Essex County NJ Arson Attorneys

Arson Offense Under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(b)

The charge known as simple arson is a third degree crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(b). What this means is that you can be sentenced to up to five (5) years in prison and fined up to $15,000 if you are found guilty of this type of arson. In order to convict you of simple arson, the state/prosecutor must establish, beyond reasonable doubt, that you purposely started a fire or purposely caused an explosion that: (i) placed another person in danger of death or bodily injury; (ii) placed a building or structure in danger of damage or destruction; (iii) for the purpose of collecting insurance;  (iv) to take advantage of a zoning, planning, or building law, regulation or ordinance; or (v) that placed a forest in danger of damage or destruction.  For the conduct to be purposeful, you must have possessed the conscious object or intent to cause the fire or explosion.

“Aggravated Arson” Charge: N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a)

Aggravated arson, which is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a), is a second degree crime that carries a penalties that include five (5) to ten (10) years in prison and substantial fines of up to $75,000. Additionally, since aggravated arson falls within the No Early Release Act (“NERA”), a defendant must serve 85% of any prison sentence before they are eligible for release on parole.

Since the penalties are significantly more serious than those for regular arson, it should probably come as no surprise that aggravated arson requires more extreme conduct. In particular, the actor must not only start a fire or cause an explosion but must also have the specific intent that it result in one of the circumstances set forth in (i) through (v) above. What is pivotal in terms of proving aggravated arson, as contrasted with arson, is the existence of an intention to cause one of these five (5) results when the ignition or combustion is caused. Aggravated arson requires that the defendant acted for the purpose of achieving one of the five (5) results set forth.  It is not enough that the person was aware or knew that destruction was possible as they must intend to cause this result in order for aggravated arson to apply.

Arson For Hire Pursuant To N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(d)

Arson for Hire is the most severe charge a person can face under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1. Specifically addressed in N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(d), arson for hire is a first degree offense. Conviction under this section carries a penalty of between ten (10) and twenty (20) years in prison and a potential fine of up to $200,000. Arson for hire is considered a violate crime just like aggravated arson, resulting in mandatory application of NERA at the time of sentencing.

As stated above, the arson for hire law is contained at subsection (d) of N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1. This statute states that:

Any person who, directly or indirectly, pays or accepts or offers to pay or accept any form of consideration including, but not limited to, money or any other pecuniary benefit, regardless of whether any consideration is actually exchanged for the purpose of starting a fire or causing an explosion in violation of this section commits a crime of the first degree.

While this offense has considerable similarities to conspiracy in that the act of arson need not actually occur for the violation to be triggered, this results in a first degree crime. As long as something of value has been exchanged in return for starting a fire, the offense is complete whether or not the ignition/combustion is accomplished.

Failure to Control or Report A Dangerous Fire: N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(c)

Failure to Control or Report a Dangerous Fire is a crime in the fourth degree. It is the least severe of all possible arson charges. If convicted, an individual will face up to eighteen (18) months in prison and a fine as high as $10,000. For the State to convict an individual of this offense, they must show that: (1) an individual was aware of a fire that is endangering life or substantial property; (2) the individual failed to take efforts to put it out or promptly report it; and (3) he has a legal or contractual duty to prevent the fire, or he or his agent started the fire.

Arson Defense Lawyers in Fairfield

If you have been charged with any form of arson, criminal mischief, terroristic threats, stalking, aggravated assault, disorderly conduct or criminal restraint you are strongly encouraged to seek the representation of an experienced criminal lawyer.  The Law Offices of Marshall, Bonus, Proetta & Oliver represent clients charged with criminal offenses throughout Essex County, including towns like Montclair, East Orange, South Orange, Newark, Bloomfield, West Orange and Belleville. We are ready to speak to you free of charge at 973-710-1520.