Arson is the crime of intentionally or maliciously lighting structures, wild land areas, cars or other property on fire. Arson often involves fires deliberately set to the property of another or to ones own property (often for insurance payment).
In Arizona, an arson crime has to have four elements that are included here and broken down in more detail below:
• Of the Dwelling
• Of Another
The Malicious – for purposes of common law, “malicious” means action creating a great risk of a burning. It is not required that the defendant acted intentionally or willfully for the purpose of burning a dwelling.
Burning – charring to any part of dwelling is sufficient to satisfy this element. No significant amount of damage to the dwelling is required. Mere discoloration from smoke has been seen as insufficient. Actual damage to the material from which the structure was built is required. Damage to surface coverings such as carpets and wallpaper is insufficient. Arson is not limited to the burning of wooden structures. Any injury or damage to the structure caused by exposure to heat or flame is sufficient.
Of the Dwelling – dwelling means a place of residence. The destruction of an unoccupied building is not considered arson. A structure does not become a residence until the first occupants moved in and ceases to be a dwelling if the occupants abandoned the premises with no intention of resuming their residency. A dwelling includes structures and outbuildings is are not limited to houses. A barn could be the subject of arson if it was occupied as a dwelling.
Of Another – burning one’s own dwelling does not constitute common law arson. However, for purposes of common law arson, possession or occupancy rather than title determines whose dwelling the structure is. Thus, a tenant who sets fire to his rented house would not be guilty of common law arson, while the landlord who set fire to a rented dwelling house would be guilty. Furthermore, “the burning of one’s own dwelling to collect insurance did not constitute common law arson. It was generally assumed in early England that one had the legal right to destroy his own property in any manner he chose.”
If your minor-age son or daughter has been charged with arson or if he or she under investigation for a common juvenile offense such as vandalism or criminal damage to property, it is important to talk to an experienced attorney and start an aggressive defense. Charlie Naegle has experience with juvenile cases and we will be at your side throughout the entire process, aiding to protect a promising future.
Call 480-378-9000 to schedule your free anytime, anywhere consultation with Phoenix criminal defense attorney Charlie Naegle. For your convenience, you may also use our consultation request form and we will contact you as soon as possible.