Englewood Arson Defense Attorneys

Facing Arson Charges and Need a Lawyer to Challenge Your Case in Bergen County?

Arrested arson need lawyer Bergen County NJ

A person commits arson when he or she intentionally sets fire to a building or property. In some cases, individuals will commit arson to collect insurance money or will be paid to set fire on another person’s behalf. If you are charged with arson in New Jersey, you could be facing up to 15 years in state prison, in addition to other penalties discussed below.

The criminal defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm have successfully defended thousands of clients charged with serious criminal offenses, including arson, trespassing, and criminal mischief throughout New Jersey, including in Paramus, Hackensack, and Fort Lee. Mr. Tormey and his team have utilized their extensive experience in the courtroom to develop advanced defense strategies for defending clients who are faced with these charges. To view just some of their positive results, access these success stories.

Call the Hackensack, New Jersey offices of The Tormey Law Firm today at (201)-330-4979 for a free consultation, and feel free to continue reading this page for additional information about arson charges in New Jersey.

New Jersey Arson Charges: N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1

In New Jersey, arson and aggravated arson are criminalized under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1, which provides in pertinent part:

a. A person is guilty of aggravated arson if he starts a fire or causes an explosion, whether on his own property or another’s:

(1) Thereby purposely or knowingly placing a person in danger of death or bodily injury; or

(2) With the purpose of destroying a building or structure; or

(3) With the purpose of collecting insurance for the damage to such property; or

(4) With the purpose of exempting the structure from zoning or building laws; or

(5) With the purpose of destroying or damaging any forest.

b. Arson. A person is guilty of arson if he purposely starts a fire or causes an explosion:

(1) Thereby recklessly placing another person in danger of death or bodily injury; or

(2) Thereby recklessly placing a building or structure in danger of damage; or

(3) With the purpose of collecting insurance for the damage to such property; or

(4) With the purpose of exempting the structure from zoning or building laws; or

(5) Thereby recklessly placing a forest in danger of damage or destruction.

c. Failure to control or report dangerous fire. A person who knows that a fire is endangering life or a substantial amount of property and either fails to take reasonable measures to put out the fire or to give prompt fire alarm, commits a crime if:

(1) He knows that he is under an official or other legal duty to prevent or combat the fire; or

(2) The fire was started, albeit lawfully, by him or with his assent.

d. Any person who pays or accepts money for the purpose of starting a fire commits a crime.

Elements of Arson Offenses in New Jersey

Some people mistakenly think that an arson charge cannot be filed if the offender is accused of setting fire to their own building or home. But this is simply not true: the possibility that a person might have started a fire on their own property for the purpose of committing insurance fraud, or for some other illicit reason, is precisely why the NJ criminal code allows arson charges regardless of whether the defendant owned the damaged property. Additionally, keep in mind that an arson charge may be appropriate even if you are accused of merely setting fire to land. That’s because the criminal statute specifies that arson includes the intentional burning of buildings or land. For this reason, a person can be charged with arson if they set fire to a forest, a public park, or even a vacant lot.

These are some of the most common situations that might lead to arson charges in New Jersey, such as setting fire to a commercial building in order to collect the insurance money after the building burns down; starting a fire in a residence with the intent to physically harm or kill an occupant of the residence; starting a fire for the purpose of damaging a forest; setting fire to a structure in order to exempt the structure from state, county, or local zoning laws.; or burning evidence in order to cover up a crime.

It is important to understand that even if the attempt to start the fire was ultimately unsuccessful, it won’t make the least bit of difference to law enforcement. Attempted arson can result in the same charges and carry the same penalties as an act of arson that was successfully carried out.

Penalties for Arson and Aggravated Arson in New Jersey

As the above statute indicates, the penalties for arson vary, depending on the circumstances surrounding the fire.

First Degree Arson: First degree arson applies to a person who is hired to start a fire. This charge is punishable by 15 years in prison, a term of incarceration which must be served in its entirety without the possibility of parole.

Second Degree Arson (Aggravated Arson): Aggravated arson is a second degree charge which applies when a person purposefully or knowingly starts a fire that places other people in danger of death or bodily injury. This charge is punishable by five (5) to ten (10) years in New Jersey State Prison. Additionally, aggravated arson is an enumerated crime under the No Early Release Act (NERA). If the NERA applies to your conviction, you MUST serve no less than 85% of your sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Third Degree Arson: Arson is typically classified as a third degree felony level offense. This is the charge when a person starts a fire that recklessly endangers another person or a building. If a person is convicted of third degree arson, he or she faces a term of imprisonment ranging from three (3) to five (5) years in New Jersey State Prison.

Notably, if you have no prior record, there is a presumption of non-incarceration associated with third degree crimes according to New Jersey Law. Additionally, our attorneys may be able to facilitate your enrollment in a diversionary program such as Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) which, upon successful completion, will result in the dismissal of the charges against you.

In addition to facing significant prison time for an arson conviction or guilty plea, the defendant could be subject to mandatory fines imposed by the court. For instance, the criminal code calls for a person convicted of first degree arson to be fined as much as $200,000. Moreover, since arson is technically a property crime, it is very possible that a convicted defendant will be required to pay restitution to cover the costs of any property damage stemming from the fire. On top of that, while most NJ criminal offenses can potentially be expunged from your record after enough time has passed since conviction, arson is in a special category of crimes that are not eligible for the expungement process in New Jersey. This means that if you are convicted of arson, you will likely have a criminal record forever.

Contact the Hackensack Law Offices of The Tormey Law Firm for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been charged with arson in New Jersey, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm have the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully defend you against arson allegations. Contact us today at (201)-330-4979 for a free consultation or to schedule an appointment at our centrally-located Hackensack office.


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