West Palm Beach Arson Lawyer
Allegations of arson, which involve the intent to start a fire and do damage to property, are a serious matter. In addition to arson charges, an individual can be charged with criminal mischief anytime he or she acts in a manner that damages property of another person. The punishment for and severity of an arson or criminal mischief charge depends on the amount of damage done by the accused. In either situation, you need an experienced West Palm Beach arson lawyer on your case.
Scott Berry Law, P.A. provides the professional legal representation you need to defend your rights when charged with a crime. While criminal mischief may be charged as a misdemeanor, a conviction for arson is generally always a felony, involving heavy fines, courts costs, and a potentially lengthy jail sentence. Rather than facing these charges alone, get our legal team on your side and working to protect you.
Arson and Criminal Mischief Under the Florida Statutes
According to the Florida Department of Enforcement (FDLE), close to 1,500 arson offenses occurred in our state over the course of 2017. While nearly one third of these crimes targeted abandoned property, the remainder occurred in places that were otherwise inhabited. This means that in addition to the millions of dollars in property damages that may have resulted in a fire, there is potential other’s lives were put at risk.
Criminal mischief is a slightly lesser charge, which also involves damage to another’s home, business, or personal property. Whether you committed actual acts of vandalism, graffiti, or in contributing to conditions that may have started a fire, or where simply a participant at the scene, these are serious criminal charges as well as require representation by a West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer to avoid a conviction.
Under Title XLVI of the Florida Statutes, the law clearly outlines when charges of arson or criminal mischief may be filed and the penalties that are associated with each:
Florida Statute, 806.01 Arson
(1) Any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes to be damaged:
(a) Any dwelling, whether occupied or not, or its contents;
(b) Any structure, or contents thereof, where persons are normally present, such as: jails, prisons, or detention centers; hospitals, nursing homes, or other health care facilities; department stores, office buildings, business establishments, churches, or educational institutions during normal hours of occupancy; or other similar structures; or
(c) Any other structure that he or she knew or had reasonable grounds to believe was occupied by a human being,
is guilty of arson in the first degree, which constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(2) Any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes to be damaged any structure, whether the property of himself or herself or another, under any circumstances not referred to in subsection (1), is guilty of arson in the second degree, which constitutes a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(3) As used in this chapter, “structure” means any building of any kind, any enclosed area with a roof over it, any real property and appurtenances thereto, any tent or other portable building, and any vehicle, vessel, watercraft, or aircraft.
Criminal Mischief Statute
Florida Statute, 806.13 Criminal Mischief
(1)(a) A person commits the offense of criminal mischief if he or she willfully and maliciously injures or damages by any means any real or personal property belonging to another, including, but not limited to, the placement of graffiti thereon or other acts of vandalism thereto.
(b)1. If the damage to such property is $200 or less, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
2. If the damage to such property is greater than $200 but less than $1,000, it is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
3. If the damage is $1,000 or greater, or if there is interruption or impairment of a business operation or public communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power, or other public service which costs $1,000 or more in labor and supplies to restore, it is a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
4. If the person has one or more previous convictions for violating this subsection, the offense under subparagraph 1. or subparagraph 2. for which the person is charged shall be reclassified as a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(2) Any person who willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or damages by any means any church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, or any religious article contained therein, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, if the damage to the property is greater than $200.
(3) Whoever, without the consent of the owner thereof, willfully destroys or substantially damages any public telephone, or telephone cables, wires, fixtures, antennas, amplifiers, or any other apparatus, equipment, or appliances, which destruction or damage renders a public telephone inoperative or which opens the body of a public telephone, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084; provided, however, that a conspicuous notice of the provisions of this subsection and the penalties provided is posted on or near the destroyed or damaged instrument and visible to the public at the time of the commission of the offense.
(4) Any person who willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or damages by any means a sexually violent predator detention or commitment facility, as defined in part V of chapter 394, or any property contained therein, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, if the damage to property is greater than $200.
(5)(a) The amounts of value of damage to property owned by separate persons, if the property was damaged during one scheme or course of conduct, may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense under this section.
(b) Any person who violates this section may, in addition to any other criminal penalty, be required to pay for the damages caused by such offense.
(6)(a) Any person who violates this section when the violation is related to the placement of graffiti shall, in addition to any other criminal penalty, be required to pay a fine of:
1. Not less than $250 for a first conviction.
2. Not less than $500 for a second conviction.
3. Not less than $1,000 for a third or subsequent conviction.
(b) Any person convicted under this section when the offense is related to the placement of graffiti shall, in addition to any other criminal penalty, be required to perform at least 40 hours of community service and, if possible, perform at least 100 hours of community service that involves the removal of graffiti.
(c) If a minor commits a delinquent act prohibited under paragraph (a), the parent or legal guardian of the minor is liable along with the minor for payment of the fine. The court may decline to order a person to pay a fine under paragraph (a) if the court finds that the person is indigent and does not have the ability to pay the fine or if the court finds that the person does not have the ability to pay the fine whether or not the person is indigent.
(7) In addition to any other penalty provided by law, if a minor is found to have committed a delinquent act under this section for placing graffiti on any public property or private property, and:
(a) The minor is eligible by reason of age for a driver’s license or driving privilege, the court shall direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to revoke or withhold issuance of the minor’s driver’s license or driving privilege for not more than 1 year.
(b) The minor’s driver’s license or driving privilege is under suspension or revocation for any reason, the court shall direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to extend the period of suspension or revocation by an additional period of not more than 1 year.
(c) The minor is ineligible by reason of age for a driver’s license or driving privilege, the court shall direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to withhold issuance of the minor’s driver’s license or driving privilege for not more than 1 year after the date on which he or she would otherwise have become eligible.
(8) A minor whose driver’s license or driving privilege is revoked, suspended, or withheld under subsection (7) may elect to reduce the period of revocation, suspension, or withholding by performing community service at the rate of 1 day for each hour of community service performed. In addition, if the court determines that due to a family hardship, the minor’s driver’s license or driving privilege is necessary for employment or medical purposes of the minor or a member of the minor’s family, the court shall order the minor to perform community service and reduce the period of revocation, suspension, or withholding at the rate of 1 day for each hour of community service performed. As used in this subsection, the term “community service” means cleaning graffiti from public property.
(9) Because of the difficulty of confronting the blight of graffiti, it is the intent of the Legislature that municipalities and counties not be preempted by state law from establishing ordinances that prohibit the marking of graffiti or other graffiti-related offenses. Furthermore, as related to graffiti, such municipalities and counties are not preempted by state law from establishing higher penalties than those provided by state law and mandatory penalties when state law provides discretionary penalties. Such higher and mandatory penalties include fines that do not exceed the amount specified in ss. 125.69 and 162.21, community service, restitution, and forfeiture. Upon a finding that a juvenile has violated a graffiti-related ordinance, a court acting under chapter 985 may not provide a disposition of the case which is less severe than any mandatory penalty prescribed by municipal or county ordinance for such violation.
Let Our West Palm Beach Arson Lawyers Defend You Against Serious Charges
Even relatively minor acts of vandalism and destruction of property committed by teenagers or adults can result in a permanent criminal record, which can threaten your ability to get a job, schooling, or to be approved for an apartment, mortgage, or other loans. With allegations of arson, you could end up finding yourself facing federal charges.
When the damage done to property was caused by fire or an explosion,The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) may get involved in your case, Arson can be charged in the first or second degree, depending on what property was damaged. In either case,these charges can result in time consuming, complicated, and costly court proceedings, while a conviction could leave you facing a lengthy federal prison sentence.To protect yourself, it is vitally important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer working on your behalf. At Scott Berry Law, P.A. we can take the following actions on your behalf:
- Appearing at arraignment and bond hearings;
- Reviewing the circumstances surrounding your arrest in an effort to have your charges dropped or reduced;
- Gathering witness statements, police reports, and other types of evidence in your favor;
- Negotiating with local, state, and federal prosecutors on your behalf;
- Making compelling arguments at trial before a judge and jury;
- Appealing your case in the event of a conviction.
Contact Us Today for Help
When facing serious criminal charges that have the potential to impact you now and in the years to come, you need a dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your side. Call or contact Scott Berry Law, P.A. online today and request a consultation to see how our West Palm Beach arson lawyers can help you.