Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Contact Us!

Arson

Everything you need to know when charged with arson, and how we attack the issue head on to either vindicate you or mitigate your charges

What Are the Different Arson Charges In Michigan?

No matter the degree charged, when there is a fire, the law assumes that it had natural or accidental causes. The prosecutor must overcome this assumption and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the fire was intentionally set.

To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused willfully or maliciously burned, damaged, or destroyed by fire or explosive any of the following or its contents;
    1. A multiunit building or structure in which 1 or more units of the building are a dwelling, regardless of whether any of the units are occupied, unoccupied, or vacant at the time of the fire or explosion;
    2. Any building or structure or other real property if the fire or explosion results in physical injury to any individual; or
    3. A mine.

Special Considerations

  • Burn means setting fire to or doing any act that results in the starting of a fire, or aiding, counseling, inducing, persuading, or procuring another to do such an act.
  • Damage, in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes, but is not limited to, charring, melting, scorching, burning, or breaking.
  • It does not matter whether the defendant owned the property or its contents.
  • Individual means any person and includes, but is not limited to, a firefighter, a law enforcement officer, or other emergency responder, whether paid or volunteer, performing his or her duties in relation to a violation

Penalty

Felony punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

    1. The accused willfully or maliciously burned, damaged, or destroyed by fire or explosive a dwelling, regardless of whether it is occupied, unoccupied, or vacant at the time of the fire or explosion, or its contents

Special Considerations

  • Dwelling includes, but is not limited to, any building, structure, vehicle, watercraft, or trailer adapted for human habitation that was actually lived in or reasonably could have been lived in at the time of the fire or explosion and any building or structure that is on the grounds around that dwelling or that is connected to that dwelling
  • The accused must only have intentionally committed an act that created a very high risk of burning, damaging, or destroying the dwelling or its contents and that, while committing the act, the defendant knew of that risk and disregarded it.

Penalty

Felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused willfully or maliciously burned, damaged, or destroyed by fire or explosive any building or structure, or its contents, regardless of whether it is occupied, unoccupied, or vacant at the time of the fire or explosion; or
  2. The accused willfully or maliciously burned, damaged, or destroyed by fire or explosive any of the following or its contents:
    1. Any personal property having a value of $20,000.00 or more.
    2. Any personal property having a value of $1,000.00 or more if the person has 1 or more prior convictions.

Special Considerations

  • It does not matter whether the person owns the building, structure, other real property or its contents, or the personal property.
  • Burn means setting fire to or doing any act that results in the starting of a fire, or aiding, counseling, inducing, persuading, or procuring another to do such an act.
  • Damage, in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes, but is not limited to, charring, melting, scorching, burning, or breaking.

Penalty 

Felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused willfully or maliciously burned, damaged, or destroyed by fire or explosive any of the following or its contents:
    1. Any personal property having a value of $1,000.00 or more, but less than $20,000.00; or
    2. Any personal property having a value of $200.00 or more if the person has 1 or more prior convictions; or
  2. The accused willfully or negligently sets fire to a woods, prairie, or grounds of another person or permits fire to pass from his or her own woods, prairie, or grounds to another person’s property causing damage or destruction to that other property.

Special Considerations

  • It does not matter whether the person owns the building, structure, other real property or its contents, or the personal property.
  • Burn means setting fire to or doing any act that results in the starting of a fire, or aiding, counseling, inducing, persuading, or procuring another to do such an act.
  • Damage, in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes, but is not limited to, charring, melting, scorching, burning, or breaking.

Penalty 

Felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused willfully or maliciously burned, damaged, or destroyed by fire or explosive any of the following or the contents of any of the following:
    1. Any dwelling that is insured against loss from fire or explosion;
    2. Any building, structure, or other real property that is insured against loss from fire or explosion;
    3. Any personal property that is insured against loss by fire or explosion; and
  2. The accused intended to defraud the insurance company.

Special Considerations

  • “The statute punishes only the burning of property actually insured; and nothing but a valid insurance plainly established would suffice.” Meister v People, 31 Mich 99, 108 (1875).
  • In Meister, the court held that to establish an intent to defraud, the actor or actors must have had knowledge of the insurance policy.

Penalty 

If the property was a dwelling, it is a felony punishable by  imprisonment for life or any term of years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

If the property was any other building, it is a felony punishable by  imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

If the property was personal property, it is a felony punishable by  imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused put some kind of flammable, combustible, or explosive material, liquid, substance, or device in or near property; or aided, counseled, induced, persuaded, or procured another person to do so;
  2. The accused intended to burn, damage, or destroy by fire or explosive the property;
  3. That the property had a some value.

Special Considerations

  • If the defendant’s actions were part of a scheme or course of conduct within a 12-month period, you may add together the values of property intended to be burned in separate incidents when deciding whether the prosecutor has proved the amount required beyond a reasonable doubt.

Penalty 

If the property has a combined value of less than $200.00, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00 or 3 times the combined value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

If the property has a value of less than $200 and the accused has at least 1 prior arson conviction or the property is between $200 and $1000, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or 3 times the combined value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine

If the property has a value between $200-$1000 and the accused has at least 1 prior arson conviction or the property is between $1000-$20,000, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 or 3 times the combined value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

If the property has a value between $1000-$20,000 and the accused has at least 1 prior arson conviction or the property is worth more than $20,000 or the fire or explosion results in injury to any individual or the property is a dwelling, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $15,000.00 or 3 times the combined value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

If the property was a dwelling and the accused intended to defraud the insurance company or someone was seriously injured, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00 or 3 times the combined value of the property intended to be burned or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

What will we do as your Defense Attorney?

These are very serious charges that require an aggressive defense in which all of the facts of the case are thoroughly reviewed. We listen carefully to what our clients tell us in order to both put together a strong defense and mitigate sentencing. We do this in several ways.

First, we never take for granted that the police report is an accurate representation of the incident in question. These reports are usually very biased towards convicting the accused, and are therefore often filled with inconsistencies. We use our client’s testimony, research, private investigators, and crime scene visits to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, and ultimately, prove your innocence or argue that the facts are so that a lenient sentence is appropriate. We always visit the scene of the crime. It’s the only way to learn details showing that the police investigation was flawed or that the prosecution’s eyewitness could not have seen what he or she claims.

When building a defense for arson, we first look for a strong alibi proving that the accused was elsewhere during the time of the crime. If no one can vouch for the whereabouts of the accused, then often the strongest defense is misidentification. By raising identity issues at trial, the jury will get instructed on identification which takes into account “how good a chance the witness had to see the offender at the time, how long the witness was watching, whether the witness had seen or known the offender before, how far away the witness was, whether the area was well-lighted, and the witness’s state of mind at that time.” 

In Arson cases, we make sure that the accused had the requisite intent to commit arson. The prosecution must show that the person knew what he or she was doing, intended to do it, and was acting as a free agent without coercion in setting any relevant structure on fire. We hold the prosecution to these standards. We may also argue that the fire was started by accident.

If the accused is between the ages of 17 and 24 they may be eligible to qualify for a sentence under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA). This Act allows the client to plead guilty, but have the offense dismissed by the court if he or she satisfies the terms set by the court. HYTA does not apply to any felony where the maximum penalty is life imprisonment (such as First Degree Arson). With that said, we always try to plea down to a non–life offense such as simple Second Degree Arson, so that HYTA is available. 

Convincing the prosecutor to reduce the charge to Preparation should always be on the table.  Mitigating factors that we look out for are things like the state of mind of the accused and whether they were acting in a desperate manner due to drugs or alcohol. Also important is the value of the property. In other words the punishment must fit the crime or we will not stand for it. 

Schedule a free consultation!

No retainer necessary! Just tell me what’s on your mind and we can plan the next steps for your success!

Why work with us?

  • Tenacious representation for an AFFORDABLE PRICE!
  • Weekend meetings & Consultations Available!
  • Educated on Modern Issues & Laws!

Email: kerrylawpllc@gmail.com

Tel: (734) 263-1193

Address: 214 S. Main St. Ste 200
                 Ann Arbor MI, 48104
Close Menu