Arson Defense

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Experienced and dedicated, Van Riper Nies trial attorneys are committed to protecting your rights.

Our attorneys, Christian Van Riper and Tim Nies are experienced trial attorneys. Christian is a former prosecuting attorney in St. Lucie County. From his years as a state attorney, Christian has a unique insight into how prosecutors evaluate cases. Our attorney, Tim Nies,  is a U.S. Army Veteran, having served with the 75th Ranger Regiment, and a former insurance defense trial attorney where he litigated complex injury cases.

Arson is the act of intentionally creating a fire or explosion in a dwelling or structure normally occupied by people. The act is oftentimes committed in addition to another crime, usually as an attempt to hide evidence or to commit insurance fraud. Sometimes, the arsonist is obsessed with fire and sets fires for no reason, making them a pyromaniac.

Any amount of damage to a building qualifies as arson, no matter how small the fire is an no matter whether the person intended to burn down the building or not. Penalties in Florida for arson include: monetary fines, prison time, community service, loss of driver’s license and long-term probation. In Florida, accused may not have had the intent to damage a structure to be charged with arson; merely the intent to start a fire is enough.

Specifically arson is defined in Florida Statute 816.01 as follows:

(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 1st degree, which is a felony of the first degree.

(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.

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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.

806.031  Arson resulting in injury to another; penalty.--

(1)  A person who perpetrates any arson that results in any bodily harm to a firefighter or any other person, regardless of intent or lack of intent to cause such harm, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(2)  A person who perpetrates any arson that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to a firefighter or any other person, regardless of intent or lack of intent to cause such harm, is guilty of a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(3)  Upon conviction and adjudication of guilt, a person may be sentenced separately, pursuant to s. 775.021(4), for any violation of this section and for any arson committed during the same criminal episode. A conviction for any arson, however, is not necessary for a conviction under this section.

806.10  Preventing or obstructing extinguishment of fire.--

(1)  Any person who willfully and maliciously injures, destroys, removes, or in any manner interferes with the use of, any vehicles, tools, equipment, water supplies, hydrants, towers, buildings, communication facilities, or other instruments or facilities used in the detection, reporting, suppression, or extinguishment of fire shall be guilty of 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 or unreasonably interferes with, hinders, or assaults, or attempts to interfere with or hinder, any firefighter in the performance of his or her duty shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

806.101  False alarms of fires.--Whoever, without reasonable cause, by outcry or the ringing of bells, or otherwise, makes or circulates, or causes to be made or circulated, a false alarm of fire, shall for the first conviction be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. A second or subsequent conviction under this section shall constitute a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

 

806.111  Fire bombs.--

 

(1)  Any person who possesses, manufactures, transports, or disposes of a fire bomb with intent that such fire bomb be willfully and unlawfully used to damage by fire or explosion any structure or property is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(2)  For the purposes of this section:

(a)  "Disposes of" means to give, give away, loan, offer, offer for sale, sell, or transfer.

(b)  "Fire bomb" means a container containing flammable or combustible liquid, or any incendiary chemical mixture or compound having a wick or similar device capable of being ignited or other means capable of causing ignition; but no device commercially manufactured primarily for the purpose of illumination, heating, or cooking shall be deemed to be such a fire bomb.

(3)  Subsection (1) shall not prohibit the authorized use or possession of any material, substance, or device described therein by a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or by firefighters, police officers, peace officers, or law enforcement officers so authorized by duly constituted authorities.

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