In the state of Georgia, arson is a very serious offense with severe consequences. In general, it refers to the unlawful destruction of property by fire. However, in our many years of experience defending clients accused of arson, we have found that many such charges are brought erroneously. Investigators may rely on circumstantial evidence to bring a conviction, when really the “perpetrator” simply set a fire purely by accident. They may have forgotten they had a candle lit, or may have forgotten to turn off their gas stove.
At Hawkins Spizman Fortas, we know mistakes happen. We also know prosecutors often try their hardest to put innocent people behind bars, even if the evidence is sketchy at best. That’s why you need an experienced Georgia arson lawyer by your side if you’ve been charged with this crime. When you call for your free consultation, one of our top priorities will be to find out whether you are being charged with arson in the first or second degree, and why such charges are being brought against you.
Arson in the First Degree versus the Second Degree
Georgia Code 16-7-60 describes the criteria that must be met in order for the state to bring charges of arson in the first degree. The most important criteria is that the perpetrator must have knowingly causes damage to certain structures by fire or explosives.These structures include:
- Any dwelling, whether occupied, unoccupied or vacant, without the owner’s consent
- Any building, watercraft, vehicle or railroad car
- Any dwelling in an attempt to defraud a spouse, co-owner, insurer or other interested party
- Any building, watercraft, vehicle or railroad car in which it is reasonable to expect human life may be endangered
A person may also be charged with arson if they cause, aid, hire, counsel or are otherwise involved in someone else committing the crime itself. Arson in the first degree is a felony, punishable by a fine of no more than $50,000 and/or a prison sentence of 1 to 20 years.
Arson in the second degree, as explained in Georgia Code 16-7-61, covers basically everything arson in the first degree doesn’t. Any fire intentionally set to a building not stated in Code 16-7-61 is covered here. This includes setting fire to a structure not covered by the first degree while in the process of committing a felony. Arson in the second degree is punishable by a fine of no more that $25,000 and/or imprisonment for 1 to 10 years.
Contact a Georgia Arson Lawyer Today
It is easy for prosecutors to narrate circumstantial evidence in such a way that a judge and jury would believe you have committed arson. And with a public defender, the chances of proving your innocence are even slimmer. If you’ve been charged with arson in Atlanta, you need a skilled, experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Call Hawkins Spizman Fortas today for a free consultation. We will craft a strong, custom defense on your behalf to make sure you don’t go to jail for something you didn’t do. If you’ve been charged, the prosecutor is already working on a strategy to put you behind bars. Time is of the essence. Call an experienced Georgia arson lawyer today at 770-651-0166.