Detroit Arson Lawyer
Arson is a serious crime, and so are the penalties resulting from a conviction. Basically, it’s illegal to maliciously burn any type of property—land, houses, buildings, furniture, and even motor vehicles. The penalties range from a few months in jail to a possible life sentence when peoples’ lives are put at risk. We at Davis Law Group have years of experience helping our clients through Michigan’s criminal justice system, and we can help you fight your arson charges. A Detroit arson lawyer can defend your rights in a troubling situation such as this.
Committing First-Degree Arson May Result in a Life Sentence
Michigan Penal Code 750.72 defines first-degree arson as the willful or malicious burning of any of the following or its contents:
- Any multi-unit structure in which at least one unit is a dwelling
- Any building or structure if the fire results in an injury
- A mine
The issue of the property or structure’s ownership or whether it was occupied does not affect a prosecutor’s ability to charge you with the first-degree arson. The penalty for committing this felony can reach life imprisonment along with a fine of $20,000, or three times the value of the property destroyed—whichever is greater.
The Penalties for Second and Third Degree Arson
Second-degree arson is explained in Michigan Penal Code 750.73, and involves the burning of any dwelling or its contents—except for multi-unit dwellings, which come under first-degree arson. The penalty for committing the felony of second-degree arson may reach twenty years imprisonment along with an optional fine of $20,000 or three times the value of the property destroyed.
According to Michigan Penal Code 750.74, a person commits the felony of third-degree arson if he or she burns any structure or the contents of any structure not included in the definitions for first or second-degree arson. For example, if you burn down a warehouse and no one gets injured, you may be charged with third-degree arson.
Alternatively, third-degree arson applies when a person destroys any personal or real property worth more than $20,000. For second offenders, charges may apply when the value of the property is only $1,000. The maximum penalty for committing this felony is 10 years’ imprisonment along with an optional fine of $20,000 or three ties the value of the property destroyed.
It’s Illegal to Willfully or Negligently Burn Another’s Woods or Fields
Michigan Penal Code 750.75 defines fourth-degree arson as the destruction by fire or explosion of property valued between $1,000 and $20,000. Fourth-degree arson will also apply when a person’s second offense involves property valued at more than $200. This section also makes it illegal to willfully or negligently set fire to the woods, prairies, or grounds of another person, or to allow a fire to pass through your property onto someone else’s. The penalty for committing fourth-degree arson is five years’ incarceration and an optional fine of $10,000 or three times the value of the property destroyed.
Fifth-degree arson, which is defined in Michigan Penal Code 750.77, applies when a person’s second arson offense results in the destruction of personal property valued at less than $1,000. This crime is a misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison and/or a fine of $1,000 or three times the value of the destroyed property—whichever is greater.
According to Michigan Penal Code 750.78, it’s illegal to willfully and maliciously burn any property valued at less than $1,000. The penalty for committing this misdemeanor may reach one year in prison and/or a fine of $2,000 or three times the value of the property destroyed. When the property is worth less than $200, however, the maximum sentence is 93 days in jail along with a fine between $500 and $600.
Crimes Related to Arson
Michigan Penal Code 750.79 concerns attempted arson or aiding and abetting arson. Depending on the suspect’s criminal record, and the value and nature of the property, the penalties may range from 93 days in jail and a $500 fine to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $20,000 or three times the value of the property.
Michigan Penal Code 750.76 defines the crime of arson of insured property, which applies when a person maliciously burns a dwelling, structure, or personal property with the intent of defrauding an insurer. When the destroyed property is a dwelling, the felony is punishable by a jail sentence of any length along with a fine of $20,000 or three times the value of the property destroyed—whichever is greater. For any other real property or building, the penalty is twenty years imprisonment and a fine of $20,000 or three times the value of the destroyed property. For personal property, the penalty is ten years of jail and a fine of $20,000 or three times the value of the destroyed property.
Fighting Your Michigan Arson Charges
As you can see, the penalties for committing arson are stiff. If you’re facing arson charges, however, you may be able to avoid these penalties. Detroit property crimes lawyer Maurice Davis has experience working as both a criminal defense lawyer and a prosecutor, which has given him an excellent perspective on how prosecutors build their cases and where their weaknesses lie.
In defending against your arson charges, it may be possible to block the prosecution’s ability to use incriminating evidence against you when:
- The evidence resulted from an illegal search
- The evidence is your testimony obtained from an unconstitutional arrest, detention, or interrogation
- The use of the evidence is not permitted by the rules of evidence
The prosecutor might use witnesses to testify against you. Your Detroit arson lawyer can interview these witnesses and then cross-examine them at trial to expose contradictions or gaps in their testimony. It may also be possible to demonstrate that the witness has no real knowledge of the case, or is unfit to testify.
The prosecution has the responsibility of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you burned or attempted to burn the property. In addition, they must show that you did so willfully, negligently, or with criminal intent—depending on the charges. A skilled Michigan criminal defense attorney may be able to demonstrate to a jury that the prosecution’s version of events is dubious, that you did not act with the needed intent, and that it’s possible to explain that the fire occurred without your intervention.
If you’ve been charged with arson, you need to act fast to give yourself the best chance at defeating the charges. Michigan criminal defense attorney Maurice Davis of the Davis Law Group is available to give you a free and confidential consultation of your case today a .
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