The consequences of an arson charge are serious. They range from incarceration and restitution to loss of property rights.
With such high stakes, building an effective defense is critical. Fortunately, several strategies can help protect your rights and minimize the impact of the charges against you.
Defining Arson and its Penalties in Florida
Setting a fire by accident is not arson. The law defines the crime as an intentional act.
In Florida, arson is a second-degree felony. It can result in prison time up to 15 years and fines as high as $10,000. In addition, offenders may be required to compensate the state or the victim through payment or labor.
Hiring a Fire Investigation Expert
If you or someone you know has been accused of arson, then hiring a fire investigation expert can be an invaluable tool in proving your innocence.
Fire investigation experts are typically former law enforcement or fire staff who specialize in forensic science and arson detection. With their help, you can access evidence that would not otherwise be available.
Investigators can analyze physical elements from the site to determine the fire’s origin. They understand which factors contribute to fire damage, and their reports are based on scientific knowledge and own extensive experience. When you are truly innocent, this evidence will be crucial to combating your arson allegations.
They understand which factors contribute to fire damage. Their reports are based on scientific knowledge and their own extensive experience.
Present an Alibi
An alibi shows that you were somewhere else at the time of your alleged crime. Evidence can include witness testimony. Any witness you present will undergo scrutiny from the prosecution, so you must find trustworthy people. Your attorney should interview them before formally asking them to join you in court.
Alibis can also include documentation. This is any credible proof that you couldn't have been in proximity of the crime when it occurred. Documents can include travel tickets or hotel receipts. You may also be able to pull a GPS history from your phone. Even communications like texts and voicemails, appropriately timestamped, can reveal your whereabouts.
Create Doubt in the Allegations
Reasonable doubt is a powerful tool in any criminal defense. By law, the court must be 100% certain of someone’s guilt to convict them.
You can sow doubt in the prosecution’s claims in many ways. Your attorney should look for and lack sufficient evidence, and they should seek contradictions and ambiguities in the facts. For example, evidence may support an arson conviction, but there could still be significant discrepancies in witness testimony. Something that simple makes the case appear less certain.
Creating enough doubt in your case could lead to having all charges dropped. This legal instrument also allows the court to dismiss a case before it even reaches trial.