New Jersey Arson Charges N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1 – Arson In NJ – What are the penalties for arson NJ – I was arrested for arson
“In New Jersey, arson is a serious crime that can lead to significant jail time. I have a number of advanced defense strategies that we can use to fight your charge.”
Arson typically refers to the purposeful starting of a fire to collect insurance money. It is a very serious criminal offenses in NJ, and if you’re charged with arson, you are facing the penalties outlined within first, second, or third degree penalties… depending on the level of arson with which you’re charged. This page will clarify the details that you need.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney might be your only hope of drastically reducing your punishments or beating your charges.
The Tormey Law Firm is a team of aggressive trial lawyers, including an active NJ prosecutor, who are committed to securing the best possible outcome for you. We’ve handled thousands of criminal cases, including arson, trespassing, and criminal mischief.
Additionally, our experience in the courtroom has allowed us to develop advanced defense strategies that we can use to help you. Give us a call today for a free consultation, and continue reading this page for more information about arson charges in New Jersey.
Arson is a serious criminal offense in New Jersey. It is governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1, which prohibits a person from deliberately starting a fire or causing an explosion. But if you’re reading this, you already knew that. And, contrary to popular belief, if you sing “the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire” while setting fire to a building, you will still be charged with arson.
The penalties vary, depending on the circumstances of the fire. First degree arson is the most serious charge, applying to a person who is hired to start a fire. Additionally, the charge automatically applies to a person who targets a church or religious place of worship. First degree arson is punishable by 15 years in prison, a term which must be served in its entirety without the possibility of parole.
Second degree arson, more commonly referred to as aggravated arson, applies to a person who purposefully or knowingly starts a fire that puts other people in danger of death or bodily injury. Additionally, the charge applies to a person who attempts to destroy a building or who starts a fire in order to collect insurance money for the property damage. Aggravated arson is extremely serious and could lead to a punishment of between five (5) and ten (10) years in prison. This is the sort of thing that Tony Soprano’s crew used to do all the time on “The Sopranos.” Unfortunately, NJ prosecutors also watched “The Sopranos.” They’re not happy that Tony kept getting away with his crimes, and they are going to take it out on you.
The No Early Release Act (NERA) can apply to an aggravated arson charge. A person convicted under the statute MUST serve no less than 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Third degree arson is the charge when someone starts a fire that recklessly endangers another person or a building. “Recklessness” is a legal term meaning that a person consciously disregards a substantial or unjustifiable risk created by his or her conduct. Third degree arson could result in a term of imprisonment of five (5) years.
Fourth degree arson applies when a person with an official, contractual, or legal duty to prevent a fire knows that a fire is endangering life or property but nonetheless fails to either put out the fire or alert others. The charge also applies to a person who lawfully starts a fire but fails to control it. If charged with fourth degree arson, you could be facing 18 months in prison. That backyard barbeque sure was tasty, but it could also land you in prison.
There are defenses available to an arson charge. One of the most common defenses to arson is that the arson occurred while the defendant was intoxicated.
However, any defense is best left to a professional who is familiar with courtroom procedure in New Jersey.
Call the Tormey Law Firm for a free consultation. Our aggressive criminal defense attorneys have advanced defense strategies to help you potentially beat your arson charge.
We’ve got the experience needed to fight your charge and help you avoid arson penalties. With a prosecutor on staff, we’ve got access to “inside information” that can lead to a win in the courtroom.
Call us today so that we can begin looking over your case file and formulate a strategy that will keep you out of jail.
N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1 – Arson Statute
a. Aggravated arson. A person is guilty of aggravated arson, a crime of the second degree, if he starts a fire or causes an explosion, whether on his own property or another’s:
(1) Thereby purposely or knowingly placing another person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
(2) With the purpose of destroying a building or structure of another; or
(3) With the purpose of collecting insurance for the destruction or damage to such property under circumstances which recklessly place any other person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
(4) With the purpose of destroying or damaging a structure in order to exempt the structure, completely or partially, from the provisions of any State, county or local zoning, planning or building law, regulation, ordinance or enactment under circumstances which recklessly place any other person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
(5) With the purpose of destroying or damaging any forest.
b. Arson. A person is guilty of arson, a crime of the third degree, if he purposely starts a fire or causes an explosion, whether on his own property or another’s:
(1) Thereby recklessly placing another person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
(2) Thereby recklessly placing a building or structure of another in danger of damage or destruction; or
(3) With the purpose of collecting insurance for the destruction or damage to such property; or
(4) With the purpose of destroying or damaging a structure in order to exempt the structure, completely or partially, from the provisions of any State, county or local zoning, planning or building law, regulation, ordinance or enactment; 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 of another and either fails to take reasonable measures to put out or control the fire, when he can do so without substantial risk to himself, or to give prompt fire alarm, commits a crime of the fourth degree if:
(1) He knows that he is under an official, contractual, or other legal duty to prevent or combat the fire; or
(2) The fire was started, albeit lawfully, by him or with his assent, or on property in his custody or control.
d. Any person who, directly or indirectly, pays or accepts or offers to pay or accept any form of consideration including, but not limited to, money or any other pecuniary benefit, regardless of whether any consideration is actually exchanged for the purpose of starting a fire or causing an explosion in violation of this section commits a crime of the first degree.
e. Notwithstanding the provisions of any section of this Title to the contrary, if a person is convicted of aggravated arson pursuant to the provisions of subsection a. of this section and the structure which was the target of the offense was a health care facility or a physician’s office, the sentence imposed shall include a term of imprisonment. The court may not suspend or make any other noncustodial disposition of a person sentenced pursuant to the provisions of this subsection.
f. Definitions. “Structure” is defined in section 2C:18-1. Property is that of another, for the purpose of this section, if anyone other than the actor has a possessory, or legal or equitable proprietary interest therein. Property is that of another for the purpose of this section, if anyone other than the actor has a legal or equitable interest in the property including, but not limited to, a mortgage, pledge, lien or security interest therein. If a building or structure is divided into separately occupied units, any unit not occupied by the actor is an occupied structure of another.
As used in this section, “forest” means and includes any forest, brush land, grass land, salt marsh, wooded area and any combination thereof, including but not limited to, an open space area, public lands, wetlands, park lands, natural habitats, a State conservation area, a wildlife refuge area or any other designated undeveloped open space whether or not it is subject to specific protection under law.
As used in this section, “health care facility” means health care facility as defined in section 2 of P.L.1971, c.136 (C.26:2H-2).
g. Notwithstanding the provisions of any section of this Title to the contrary, if a person is convicted pursuant to the provisions of subsection a., b. or d. of this section and the structure which was the target of the offense was a church, synagogue, temple or other place of public worship, that person commits a crime of the first degree and the sentence imposed shall include a term of imprisonment. The term of imprisonment shall include a minimum term of 15 years, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole. The court may not suspend or make any other noncustodial disposition of a person sentenced pursuant to the provisions of this subsection.