When we think about felony arson charges, it typically conjures up insurance scams and other wild schemes to defraud.
However, real life is rarely as entertaining.
For instance, a careless smoker can face arson charges, an accident can lead to arson charges, and even a domestic dispute can end with felony arson charges .
If you are involved with a suspicious fire, you need to consult an attorney before speaking with investigators.
A fire may not sound like a big deal at first. However, arson in Nebraska is a serious offense.
If someone accuses you of setting a fire, you may face felony arson charges.
Omaha attorney Tom Petersen is a seasoned defense lawyer representing people accused of felony arson charges. If someone accuses you of arson, contact Tom, him and his team can help.
What Are the Types of Arson Charges in Nebraska?
Generally, the type of property damaged, the potential for injury to another person, and other crimes that may have occurred during the fire will determine the charges for arson.
First Degree Arson Charges
In Nebraska, the State can sustain first-degree arson charges if you intentionally use fire or explosives to damage a building or property located inside a building.
However, the State must prove that someone was inside the building.
The State can also bring arson charges if you cause a building fire while committing other crimes (burglary, robbery, or felony criminal mischief).
Again, for first-degree arson charges, the State must demonstrate that you knew or could tell that someone was inside the building.
Unfortunately, the State has a broad definition of a building. For felony arson charges, a building is any structure designed to shelter people, animals, or property.
Also, for arson charges, the State considers a boat, trailer, car, or truck to be a building if it can house people or animals overnight.
In Nebraska, first-degree arson is a Class II felony. If a jury finds you guilty, you can face up to 50 years in prison.
Second Degree Arson Charges
If you intentionally set fire to an unoccupied building or cause a building fire during the commission of certain crimes, you may have committed second-degree felony arson.
For instance, you can face felony charges for arson if you cause a fire by knocking over a candle while burglarizing an unoccupied building. If convicted, you can face four years in prison.
Third Degree Arson Charges
You can face third-degree arson charges if you—without permission—intentionally set fire to another person’s property.
The severity of the punishment depends on the amount of damage you may have caused. For example, damage under $1,500 is considered a misdemeanor.
However, if you cause more than $1,500 in damages, the State can charge you with a Class IV felony. If convicted of third-degree felony arson charges, you can face a two-year sentence.
Juvenile Arson Charges
Unfortunately, the State does not distinguish arson charges for minors. If your child causes a fire that destroys a building—even your home—your child can face felony arson charges.
Therefore, it is essential to consult with a lawyer before allowing children to speak with fire investigators.
How Do You Defend Yourself from Arson Charges in Nebraska?
Luckily, there are several defenses to arson. Second-degree felony arson charges are inappropriate if you owned the destroyed building and no one else had a “security or proprietary interest.”
In other words, a bank did not hold a mortgage, there were no co-owners (or the co-owners gave permission), and you did not have tenants.
However, you must have a permit issued by the State Fire Marshall that allowed you to destroy the building.
Also, you can defend yourself against third-degree arson charges if the fire did not wholly cause damage to the property.
However, your defense may fail if you had set the building or property on fire to defraud an insurance company.
When Do You Need a Lawyer?
If you or a loved one is involved in a suspicious fire, it is vital to speak with a lawyer.
Talking to fire investigators before consulting with an attorney can lead to arson charges—even if an accident caused the fire.
Thus, a seasoned attorney can represent your interests during an arson investigation.
Nebraska attorney Tom Petersen and his team will not judge you. Instead, the Petersen Law Firm will offer aggressive defense against arson charges.
Call us today or contact us through our online form to learn more about how we can help.
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