Of all the crimes involving setting fires malicious burning is the most common, but not for obvious reasons. In almost every arson case the police and the states attorney will also charge the defendant with malicious burning. So if someone is accused of setting fire to a house, boat, car, pier, barn, or tent he or she will likely face charges for both crimes. At or before trial the state will typically decide which charge to pursue, but the state could go to trial on both charges and leave it up to the jury. If you or a loved one is facing either of these charges it is absolutely necessary to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Benjamin Herbst has handled numerous arson and burning cases, and understands their complex nature. He is available 24 hours a day to discuss the defenses that may be available to you before or during trial. He has successfully defended and even earned dismissals in multiple cases involving the burning of property.
Malicious burning is not made up of a variety of different elements, and the only thing the state needs to prove is that the defendant willfully and maliciously set fire or burned the personal property of another. The type of property is irrelevant for this particular offense. It could be furniture, clothes, or electronics, but practically anything could apply. Willfully simply means intentionally, knowingly and purposefully. Maliciously means that the act was done with the intent to harm. This offense may be charged in either the first degree or the second degree. First degree malicious burning is a felony with a maximum 5-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. It only applies when the property at issue is valued at over $1,000. If the property is under this dollar amount then second degree will be filed, and is a misdemeanor with an 18-month maximum jail sentence and a $500 fine. The state must prove value beyond a reasonable doubt, and if they cannot prove the property was over the thousand-dollar threshold down to the last penny then they will be forced to file misdemeanor charges. An experienced criminal attorney could be able to attack the dollar amount or other necessary elements of the charge at a preliminary hearing or even after the case has been sent to circuit court. Contact the firm today to set up a free consultation, and let us start fighting for you.