Arson Defense | Toms River, Ocean County, NJ

Arson is defined the same in Federal and New Jersey state law. The New Jersey state statute that deals with arson is N.J.S. 2C:17-1. Under this statute, arson is defined in two varieties; ordinary and aggravated. Ordinary arson is the lesser of the two. Under state law, it is not possible to have either crime expunged from a criminal record.

What is Aggravated Arson

A person can be found guilty of aggravated arson if he or she starts a fire or causes an explosion. It does not matter whether the fire took place on his property or not. The following circumstances apply to aggravated arson charges.
  1. Purposely or knowingly exposing someone to death or bodily injury
  2. Purposely destroy a building or structure that belongs to someone else
  3. Purposely collects insurance for the destruction or damage to such property under circumstances that expose another person to bodily injury or death
  4. Purpose is to destroy or damage a structure to exempt the structure either partially or completely
  5. Purpose is to damage or destroy a forest

What is Arson?

Arson and aggravated arson are very similar. However, ordinary arson has fewer elements than aggravated arson. Like aggravated arson, a person can be found guilty of this crime if they start a fire or cause an explosion on their property or property owned by someone else. The same elements that apply to aggravate arson apply to ordinary arson (see five elements above). However, it is not necessary for significant damage to occur to be charged with ordinary arson. The fire doesn't even have to be successful. Instead, an ordinary arson charge only needs one of the elements above to be an indictable crime.

Sentence for Aggravated Arson

The penalties for aggravated arson are severe and usually always include a term in State Prison up to 10 years. Under certain circumstances, it can be much longer.

Penalties for Arson

The penalty for arson is usually accompanied with a prison term of up to 5 years in State Prison.

First Degree Arson

Arson in the first degree is commonly referred to as "arson for hire." A person can be charged with arson for hire if any of the elements below apply.

  • Defendant paid or offered to pay someone to start a fire or cause an explosion
  • Defendant was paid or agreed to create a fire for payment
  • Target of a fire or explosion was a place of worship

First Degree Arson Penalty

First degree arson is punishable by law. The act carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years. Fines of up to $200,000 can also be imposed. If the target of a fire or explosion was a church or other place of worship, a defendant will be required to serve at least 15 years in prison before being eligible for parole. Like all other acts of arson, a first degree arson charge can never be expunged from a person's criminal record - no matter how much time has passed.

If you have been, or you think you will be charged with arson, it is imperative that you seek legal representation immediately. Daniel E. Berger, Esq., has defended thousands of criminal cases over the years and offers free consultations and immediate assistance.