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Have You Been Charged with Arson? Work with Our Experienced Defense Attorney to Avoid Heavy Sentencing.

Arson Lawyer for Eastern Washington

Arson charges are serious matters in Washington State. A conviction can lead to prison time and substantial fines even if no one is hurt. You owe it to yourself to retain a top criminal defense lawyer.

Steve Graham was rated one of Spokane's top five criminal lawyers by the magazine Spokane - Couer d'Alene Living. Defense lawyer Steve Graham has handled multiple arson cases throughout the Northwest including one that was featured in the National Enquirer. Arson First Degree Washington State RCW

Arson in the First Degree

A charge of Arson in the First Degree is brought when a prosecuting attorney alleges that a person knowingly and maliciously: 1) caused a fire in a dwelling or residence, 2) started a fire in a building that is occupied, 3) started a fire and caused damage of a value in excess of $10,000 with the intent to collect the insurance proceeds, or 4) caused a fire that was manifestly dangerous to life. Arson in the First Degree is a class A felony meaning it is punishable by up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine.

The standard range of punishment for a person convicted of First Degree Arson is 21 to 27 months in prison. Penalties can increase if the offense was coupled with other charges, or if there is a deadly weapon or firearm enhancement, or if the offense is labeled as a domestic violence offense. Under Washington law, the State does not have to prove that a house was occupied at the time to have the structure count as a dwelling or residence. When courts consider whether a fire is “manifestly dangerous" to human life, they look at the presence of occupants, combustibility, and proximity to other structures. When considering risk to human life, the danger to firefighters is taken into consideration.

A fire that is caused carelessly is not Arson. A prosecutor must prove that the defendant acted knowingly and maliciously to prove Arson. Acting with malice means “an evil intent, wish, or design to vex, annoy, or injure another person.” However, Washington law provides that malice may be inferred from an act done in willful disregard of the rights of another. The offense is sometimes charge in conjunction withMalicious Mischief.

Danger is not only measured by the actual harm done, but also by the potential for harm. In metropolitan areas, such as Spokane, a fire in one structure may quickly spread to an adjoining structure. Arson crimes are investigated by specially trained police detectives, the local fire department, and the State Fire Marshall. Investigators use chemical tests and other methods to locate the point of origin of a fire. These investigations often take many months to resolve. Prosecuting attorneys assist in the investigation by subpoenaing records or helping with search warrants. The motives in arson cases vary greatly.

Some cases involve individuals with pyromania or other mental health issues. Pyromania is an impulse control disorder that is found mostly in males, and is often evident in the early teenage years. It is not automatically a legal defense that a person suffered from pyromania, but such an illness can potentially lead to reduced time in jail or prison. Arson is sometimes committed in the context of domestic violence, or done in an attempt to destroy evidence of another crime. Arson is sometimes done out of financial motivation, such as to collect insurance proceeds or to get out of oppressive mortgage terms. Such an offense is also sometimes charged as fraud. Arson cases that result in death are charged as murder even if it wasn’t the intent of the person to take another life.

Arson in the Second Degree Washington State

Arson in the Second Degree

A charge of Second Degree Arson is brought when a prosecuting attorney alleges that a person knowingly and maliciously causes a fire or explosion which damages any building, wharf, machine, dock, engine, motor vehicle, boat, airplane, bridge, crop, timber, fence, or lumber. In rural counties such as Stevens County or Okanogan County, arson cases involving timber are fairly common.

Arson Second Degree is a violent felony, but the standard range of punishment for a person with no criminal history is only 3-9 months. The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The punishment or sentence for Second Degree Arson can increase if a person is armed with a deadly weapon or firearm. The crime of Arson is related to Reckless Burning. When a person goes to a jury trial on a charge of Arson First Degree, the jurors are often given the option of convicting only of the “lesser charge” of Arson Second Degree.

Arson Defense Lawyer

If you are suspected of Arson it is important to contact a criminal defense lawyer right away. You should not make any statement to the investigators or to the insurance company until you have spoken to a defense lawyer. People are often misquoted by investigators, and a criminal lawyer will make sure that your rights are upheld. When a prosecuting attorney is able to prove his or her case, it is usually due to a confession on the part of a suspect rather than any solid scientific proof.

Free Consultations:

If you want to discuss your arson case with me, please call. We do free consultations on criminal matters in eastern Washington. You will receive my honest opinion and I will listen to you and answer your questions.