Is It Arson in CO If You Started the Fire Accidentally?
Arson is one of the most serious property crimes. It causes billions of dollars in property damage and thousands of people die in fires every year. There is no statute of limitations for arson, and conviction for felony arson carries severe penalties. If convicted of felony arson, you will be facing strict fines and years behind bars.
In Colorado, a person who recklessly causes a fire may be charged with arson. But a controlled agriculture burn that is conducted in a reasonably cautious manner where no one is injured is not arson.
Depending on the circumstances, arson may be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. When a fire is caused by accident, prosecutors will often ignore the suspect’s lack of intent and try to get the maximum penalty.
Penalties for Arson
In Colorado, arson is defined as the crime of intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly damaging or destroying property by fire. The key legal terms here are defined as:
Intentionally — The suspect’s objective was to cause arson.
Knowingly — The suspect knew their conduct was almost certainly likely to cause arson.
Recklessly — The suspect consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustified risk.
Prosecutors have a lot of discretion in arson cases, and it makes a big difference whether arson is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
Felony arson carries prison sentences of up to 48 years. Arson is a felony in Colorado if:
- It involves a building or occupied structure
- It is committed intentionally or knowingly
- There’s intent to defraud
Misdemeanor arson carries up to 364 days in jail time. If it is determined that the fire was set knowingly or recklessly but not intentionally, it may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor as long as no one was injured or endangered in the fire and the damages are less than $2000 dollars.
How Your Attorney Can Help
Arson is a crime that gets a lot of attention. When a building burns down, it gets covered by the media, especially if people were injured or killed. The public and press put a lot of pressure on police and prosecutors to find out who started the fire and hand out stiff sentences.
Arson is often related to insurance fraud when someone burns down a building so they can collect money. That’s why insurance companies take a keen interest when a building they insure burns down. And they’ll often hire their own investigators to determine if a fire was caused by arson and who did it.
When arson occurs, there usually aren’t any witnesses. That’s why forensic evidence and expert testimony are often crucial when it comes to proving arson. That means that the evidence connecting a suspect is usually circumstantial.
If you’ve been accused of arson, you’ll want to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side. To provide you with a strong defense, your Colorado Springs arson defense attorney will have to stand up to zealous prosecutors.
Successful defense strategies in arson cases include:
- The fire was caused by accident
- Mistaken identification
- It was an agricultural burn, and no one got hurt
- Police misconduct
- The property owner consented to the fire
- There’s no clear evidence linking the suspect to a crime
- No buildings were damaged
- The damaged property was not occupied
- There was no intent to defraud
- Minimal property damage occurred
- No one was endangered by the fire
Have You Been Charged with Arson?
Arson cases generate a lot of publicity, and aggressive prosecutors are likely to pursue the most stringent penalties, even when it was obviously caused by accident. You’ll want to have someone on your side who will fight for you every step of the way.
Timothy R. Bussey has been recognized for outstanding service to our clients by Super Lawyers and he has a perfect 10.0 rating from Avvo.
Contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. to schedule a FREE consultation today by calling (719) 475-2555.