South Carolina Arson Lawyer
Although most people fear being burned by a fire, it is not the only way this element can hurt us. Most people who lose their lives in a fire die because of the heavy smoke, toxic gas and absence of oxygen to breathe. The potential for lost lives and serious bodily injury is why arson is a particularly heinous crime. You will need an experienced South Carolina arson lawyer in your corner if you face charges for this offense.
Homes, businesses, and other properties catch fire for numerous reasons. A fire could be caused by something as simple as a burning candle or a faulty wire. If authorities believe a property owner had a motive to destroy their own property, arson charges and insurance fraud accusations could follow. Significant penalties and jail time accompany an arson conviction.
It is vital that you realize the seriousness of the situation if you are investigated or arrested for arson. Greenville criminal defense attorney AnneMarie Odom provides rigorous and dedicated criminal defense for her clients.
What is an Arson Charge?
Arson is when someone intentionally and illegally starts a property fire. The blaze typically involves a home or building, but the crime also applies to other things like vehicles, boats, or even forests.
Only a person who uses fire or explosion to destroy property may be convicted of arson under South Carolina law.
Types of Arson Charges
In South Carolina, arson charges sort into three categories based on the severity of the infraction. These categories are first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree arson, with first-degree being the most severe.
First Degree Arson
First-degree arson occurs when a person intentionally and with malice sets a fire or explosion in a building. The offense causes extreme property damage and may even severely hurt or claim the life of a person inside. The punishment for first-degree arson in South Carolina is a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Second Degree Arson
Second-degree arson in South Carolina is similar to first-degree arson. The difference is that second-degree arson does not cause bodily injury to persons that may be inside the premises. The penalty range for second-degree arson is 3-25 years.
Third Degree Arson
Setting fire to and damaging a watercraft, vehicle, or another personal property is considered third-degree arson in South Carolina. This crime may land an individual behind bars for up to 15 years.
Federal Arson Laws
In addition to state legislation, the federal government also addresses arson crimes. 18 U.S. Code § 81 defines arson as willfully or maliciously setting fire to “… property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce.” Put more simply, federal law covers blazes set within the territorial and maritime jurisdictions of the U.S. This includes war munitions, naval or military stores, buildings, vessels or structures, machinery, supplies, and machinery.
This federal statute only applies to commercial structures. Entering into a conspiracy to commit arson and attempting to commit arson are also covered by federal law.
Is It Arson if You Burn Your Own Property?
If you set fire to your property, you could face arson charges. However, to be convicted, the fire must damage other people’s property or have been set for fraudulent reasons.
For example, it is arson if you burn your home to collect money from your homeowner’s insurance policy. In addition, setting fire to your home that spreads to neighboring houses is also arson.
Insurance Fraud and Arson
Other crimes, such as insurance fraud, typically come into play as well when arson occurs. Multiple crimes happen when a person sets their home ablaze to collect on their insurance policy.
Profit generally motivates this act and is frequently committed by people in desperate need of money due to bankruptcy, an impending foreclosure or heavy debt.
What if the Fire Did Not Cause Damage?
The fire must cause damage for a South Carolina arson conviction to occur. The state statute defines arson damage as the “application of fire or explosives that results in burning, charring, blistering, scorching, smoking, discoloring, or changing the fiber or composition of a building, structure, or any property specified in this section.”
What if the Fire is an Accident?
You won’t face arson charges if the fire is an accident, even if the blaze causes extensive injuries, damages, or even death. However, you could still face personal injury, wrongful death, or other types of civil legal action.
What are the Penalties for Arson in South Carolina?
The damage done by the arsonist and the involvement of any human occupancy during the event determines the punishment for the crime. If there are no injures, minimal damages, and the fire happened because of reckless and unintentional behavior, the arson is typically handled as a misdemeanor.
However, in most cases, arson is treated as a felony in South Carolina because of the potential for severe injury or wrongful death. Arson crimes are serious criminal charges. Penalties include:
- First-Degree Arson: A minimum of 30 years in prison.
- Second-Degree Arson: At least three (3) years in prison and a max of 25 years.
- Third-Degree Arson: A maximum of 15 years in prison.
The crime of arson typically goes hand in hand with related crimes. As such, individuals often find themselves accused of the following along with arson:
- Insurance Fraud
- Burglary (for entering a structure to commit an arson)
AnneMarie Odom’s comprehensive criminal defense strategy of your case can also address any related charges stemming from the arson.
Criminal Defense Lawyers for Arson Charges in Greenville, South Carolina
Arson is a felony offense with serious consequences. An arson charge can be life-altering and you will need the guidance of a knowledgeable and experienced South Carolina arson lawyer right away. Greenville criminal defense attorney AnneMarie Odom possesses unparalleled skills in representing those charged with arson as well as other criminal charges in Greenville. In addition to arson, the legal team at AnneMarie Odom Law also provides SC DUI defense, white-collar crimes defense, defense against weapons charges, and more.
AnneMarie Odom, a skilled Greenville arson defense attorney, is here to help you or your loved one plan a successful arson defense strategy. Call (864) 775-5833 today to schedule a free consultation to go over your legal options, or simply fill out our online intake form to get started.
— OR —