Tragic Fires, Accident or Arson?


Around the globe, there has been very devastating news about fires that are ravaging lands, destroying cities and national monuments. In our own state of Florida, each year, there are thousands of acres of land and homes that are destroyed by wildfires. While it is difficult to ascertain the exact cause of each fire, according to Florida state officials, as many as 90% of fires are started by people, either intentional or unintentional, with weather such as lightning strikes and the wind factor being the cause of the rest. Clearly, fire is a danger to us all, and the Florida court system takes allegations of arson very seriously.

Arson is defined as the criminal act of willfully and maliciously setting fire or using explosives to damage property, such as land, buildings, motor vehicles or boats. The essential element in convicting an arsonist is the proof of intent. That is, they started the fire knowing that damage or personal injury would occur.

To defend an allegation of arson in a court of law requires meticulous preparation, as these cases can be very challenging. It is particularly difficult to defend an alleged arsonist when it appears there is a motive, such as a potential insurance settlement or proof of a possible motive of revenge. As part of the investigation, a fire investigator can provide valuable information as to the possible causes of a fire, which can oftentimes exclude the defendant and dismiss the charges. It is important to interview possible witnesses, property owners, and business associates. Examples of other defenses can include;

  • Provide evidence that another person is responsible.
  • An admission that the defendant caused the fire, however, it was by accident.
  • Proof of involuntary intoxication resulting in an accidental fire.
  • Mistaken identity of the arsonist.
  • An alibi, with the testimony of reliable witnesses and evidence that the defendant was somewhere else when the fire took place.
  • An insanity or lack of capacity defense.

In the State of Florida, a first-degree felony penalty for damaging structures by fire or explosives is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and $15,000 in fines. If there is serious bodily injury or permanent disfigurement to a victim from the fire, separate second-degree felony charges can be filed. A person can be charged with arson in the damage or destruction of their own property with fire or explosives.

At The AP Law Group, we are criminal defense attorneys with over 55 years of experience that are dedicated to the defense of our clients in misdemeanor, felony, and federal crimes. We are knowledgeable about the intricacies of an arson defense and can develop strategies to challenge forensic evidence presented by the prosecution. If you have been arrested and charged with arson, we will immediately begin a comprehensive investigation to consider all the elements in the case. Contact our office for aggressive representation to protect your rights.