Were you arrested or charged with arson? Do you need a qualified and dedicated criminal defense lawyer to represent you in your case? If so, contact The Criminal Defense Team immediately to discuss your legal options.
In our experience, arson is one of the least likely charges to be filed. However, in those rare cases, we have successfully defended clients accused of this crime. Sometimes whether the fire was an act of arson is the question. The defense, for example, may involve whether an accelerant was involved in the fire or if it was faulty electrical work.
Other times, arson is apparent. However, the person who committed the crime is not. In this case, if a person is accused, our firm would look for every possible culprit who may have had the motive to set a fire or to set someone up to look like they set the fire. No matter what, experienced trial lawyers are necessary to navigate the proper defense to get the best outcome.
Contact The Criminal Defense Team at (317) 687-8326 to speak with a knowledgeable, Board Certified* arson defense attorney today.
What Is Arson?
According to Indiana code 35-43-1-1, the offense of arson occurs when a person knowingly or intentionally uses an explosive, fire, or destructive device to cause damage to:
- Someone’s property in a way that endangers human life;
- Another person’s home without their consent;
- A structure used for religious worship without getting the owner’s consent; or
- Someone else’s property without their consent if the loss has at least $5,000 in value.
The act of arson can involve commercial or residential property, a vehicle, a boat, forest land, or personal property, such as a laptop. When determining whether someone committed this offense, these factors must exist:
- Intent – The perpetrator deliberately caused damage to the owner’s property.
- Recklessness – The offender knowingly participated in an activity that resulted in property damage.
- Structure or property damage – Damage occurred to another person’s personal property or structure.
Previous laws involved burning or damaging another person’s property utilizing a fire, explosive, or destructive device. However, the law has been expanded and now includes someone damaging their own property to commit insurance fraud or another criminal act.
Indiana Penalties for Arson
Sentencing guidelines for misdemeanors and felonies exist so a judge can determine the appropriate amount of jail time or fine with which to sentence the convicted defendant. Felonies are more severe than misdemeanors and carry harsher punishments.
Felonies in Indiana are divided into six levels. Level 1 is the most severe offense, and level 6 is the least severe. Misdemeanors fall under one of three classes, A, B, or C. Each level or class comes with a range for prison or jail time and an advisory sentence.
The advisory sentence is a starting point that the judge can use when determining an appropriate sentence. They can increase or decrease prison time based on mitigating or aggravating circumstances of the crime.
The sentencing guidelines below are for all crimes committed after June 30, 2014. Any offense committed before July 1, 2014, comes with different sentencing guidelines.
|Level/Class||Sentencing Guideline||Advisory Sentence||Maximum Fine|
|Level 1 felony||20 to 40 years||30 years||$10,000|
|Level 2 felony||10 to 30 years||17 ½ years||10,000|
|Level 3 felony||3 to 16 years||9 years||$10,000|
|Level 4 felony||2 to 12 years||6 years||$10,000|
|Level 5 felony||1 to 6 years||3 years||$10,000|
|Level 6 felony||6 months to 2 ½ years||1 year||$10,000|
|Class A misdemeanor||0 to 365 days||None||$5,000|
|Class B misdemeanor||0 to 180 days||None||$1,000|
|Class C misdemeanor||0 to 60 days||None||$500|
Eleven aggravating circumstances could influence whether a judge decides to issue a harsher punishment to the defendant:
- The defendant has a history of delinquent or criminal behavior;
- The victim suffered loss, harm, injury, or damage that was significant and greater than what is necessary to prove the defendant committed the crime;
- The victim was over 65 years old or under 12;
- The defendant committed the offense while under a protective order, no-contact order, or workplace restraining order;
- The defendant knowingly committed a violent crime within the hearing or in the presence of a person under 18 years old;
- The victim was physically or mentally infirm or disabled, and the defendant knew or should have known about the disability;
- The defendant violated parole, community corrections placement, probation, pardon, or pretrial release;
- The victim’s death or injury resulted from shaken baby syndrome;
- The defendant was in control, custody, or care of the victim;
- The defendant was a penal facility employee and committed trafficking with an inmate;
- The defendant threatened harm to a witness or victim if they told anyone about the crime.
There are also mitigating circumstances that the judge can use to reduce sentencing or issue probation instead of jail or prison time:
- The offense didn’t cause serious property damage or bodily harm, or the person didn’t contemplate that it would;
- The victim facilitated or induced the crime;
- The offense occurred due to circumstances not likely to recur;
- There was a strong provocation for the defendant to engage in the act;
- Substantial grounds exist to justify or excuse the crime, failing to establish a defense;
- The defendant obeyed the law for a significant period before the offense or didn’t have a history of criminal or delinquent activity;
- The defendant will likely respond favorably to a short jail sentence or probation;
- The defendant has or will provide the victim with restitution for the loss, damage, or injury;
- The defendant’s attitude and character indicate that they likely won’t commit another crime;
- The victim of the crime sexually or physically abused the defendant repeatedly in the past, and the defendant suffered from the effects of those acts;
- The defendant or their dependents would suffer undue hardship if the sentencing involves imprisonment;
- The offense involved a controlled substance and the defendant’s arrest or prosecution occurred because they asked for emergency medical assistance or engaged in the act with another person who required emergency medical assistance;
- The defendant has a traumatic brain injury, post-concussive brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you committed other felonies before your arrest for arson, you could face an enhanced sentence. The State might seek sentencing for a habitual offender by alleging that you accumulated previous felony convictions under the habitual offender statute. An enhancement means you could end up with additional prison time. For example, if the maximum sentence for the crime is six years, but the State proves you are a habitual offender, you could face imprisonment for more than six years.
Level 1 to Level 4 Felonies
If you committed arson at a level 1 through 4 felony but the State can prove the facts below, you could face an additional six to 20 years in prison:
- You have two previous convictions for unrelated felonies; and
- At least one is not a level 6 felony or Class D felony.
Level 5 Felony
If your arson conviction is a level 5 felony and the State can prove the circumstances below, your enhanced sentence could be between two and six more years in prison:
- You have two prior felony convictions unrelated to the current conviction;
- At least one of those crimes isn’t a level 6 felony; and
- You allegedly committed a previous unrelated offense at a level 5 or 6 felony or Class C or D felony.
- Additionally, more than ten years cannot exist between the date of the current crime and the date of completed probation, parole, or prison sentence.
Level 6 Felony
Level 6 felony arson could result in an additional two to six years of prison time if the State can prove:
- You have three previous unrelated felony convictions; and
- You allegedly committed an unrelated level 5 or 6 felony or Class C or Class D felony before the current offense.
- No more than ten years can exist between the date of release from probation, prison, or parole and the date of the committed crime.
Common Defenses Against Arson
The prosecutor must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Criminal Defense Team must plant the seeds of doubt in the juror’s minds by discounting the prosecution’s theories. The defense strategy we use will depend on the circumstances of your case. Some common defenses include:
- Alibi – You were somewhere else at the time of the offense, meaning there is no way you could have committed arson.
- Violation of rights – Law enforcement violated your rights during the arrest, search and seizure, or investigation. For example, it’s a violation of your rights if the police searched your home without a warrant. We could file a motion to suppress evidence so the prosecutor can’t present it to the jury during trial.
- Duress – Somebody used violence, threats, force, or another action so you would commit the crime against your will.
- Mistaken identity – If a witness placed you at the scene of the offense or identified you in a photo, it’s possible they wrongly identified you.
- Accident – Arson must include intent. If the prosecutor can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly and intentionally caused damage, we could argue that your actions were an accident.
Trusting your defense to an experienced Indiana arson defense lawyer from The Criminal Defense Team could be your best option. We will tirelessly work to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.
The Criminal Defense Team has over 120 years of combined experience representing clients and defending them against the charges they’re facing. We know your future and freedom are at stake. You can depend on us to protect your rights and fight hard to reach a favorable outcome in your case. When you hire us, we will provide the guidance and support you need to get through this difficult time in your life. You can depend on our legal team to remain by your side until the very end.
If you’re facing charges for arson in Indiana, do not hesitate to contact The Criminal Defense Team immediately. Call (317) 687-8326 for a free consultation.