Facing Arson Charges With Strong Legal Representation
If you have been accused of arson, you have the right to fight the charges. An experienced attorney can help. At Pearson & Paris, P.S.C., our 22 years of legal experience can be used to protect your rights. Perhaps more importantly, our top criminal defense attorney is a former senior prosecutor who knows how prosecutors handle these cases. That knowledge allows us to create effective strategies ranging from negotiation to courtroom battles.
Whether in the Louisville area or anywhere in Kentucky, arson generally occurs when a person sets fire to, burns or causes to be burned either the property of another or his own property with an intent to defraud, usually an insurance provider.
Possible Consequences for Arson
Kentucky law provides for three degrees of the crime of arson. There are several elements common to each of the three. First, each offense is defined so that it may be committed in either of two ways, i.e., by “starting a fire” or by “causing an explosion.” Secondly, each of the offenses has at least two distinct mental elements, one of which must be an intentional act of starting a fire or causing an explosion. (The second mental state varies with each offense.) This requirement is intended to preclude criminal conviction for accidental fires and explosions. Before conviction of any of the offenses of arson is appropriate, it must be established that the defendant consciously desired to start the fire or cause the explosion. This does not mean, of course, that it must be shown for each offense that he or she desired the consequences of the fire or explosion. Finally, each degree of arson requires an element of “damage to a building” for conviction.
Arson can range from a Class A felony, for an occupied building, and a Class B felony for an unoccupied structure or to facilitate the collection of insurance proceeds. The wanton destruction or damage to a building by an intentionally act of starting a fire is a Class D felony. K.R.S. §§ 513.020-040.
Possible Defenses for Arson
Whether a person is charged with arson of a building or occupied structure, arson of one’s own property for the purpose of seeking insurance proceeds or some other type of arson, the general approach to defending arson remains the same. First, the statute requires that the person acted “intentionally” in setting the fire. Therefore, an accidental fire starting is not generally chargeable as a felony arson offense. A fire that spreads to a building or residence may fall under this category of an accidental fire.
Second, in most cases a qualified arson investigator may have to be consulted to oversee the forensic investigation that the fire chief, fire marshal or law enforcement investigators may conduct. The area of arson investigation is a very specialized field, and extreme care must be taken in preserving and analyzing evidence of accelerants, spread patterns, areas of origin and lightning as a possible cause. A defense may then develop that the defendant did not have access or opportunity to set the fire in the manner alleged.
Other defenses may apply as well. This includes an analysis of any violation of constitutional rights, such as the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, the right to have any searches and seizures based on probable cause, a proper warrant, and the right to due process in the proper preservation of evidence that may be used against you. Many other defenses are available that rely on scrutinizing and exposing weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, such as biased or incompetent witnesses, flawed crime scene investigation, flawed administration and procedures in collecting breath, blood or urine for forensic testing, incompetent computer evidence, flawed photo line ups and inaccurate crime scene/accident reconstructions.
It is important that you hire a skilled and experienced lawyer to defend you in an arson case in Louisville, Jefferson County, or across Kentucky.
Call us at 502-688-5200 in the Greater Louisville area and across the state of Kentucky.
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For an initial consultation with a top-rated Louisville criminal law attorney, contact Pearson & Paris, P.S.C. We represent clients throughout Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, and Bullitt counties in such cities as Louisville, St. Matthews, Lyndon, Prospect, Anchorage, Hurstbourne, Middletown, Jeffersontown, Shively, Crestwood, Goshen, Buckner, La Grange, Simpsonville, Shelbyville, Mount Washington and Shepherdsville.