Have you been arrested and charged with aggravated arson in Somerset County, New Jersey? If so, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. The attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law are prepared to take on your case and fight for your rights.
Aggravated arson is a serious indictable crime. Not only could you face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if you are convicted, but you could also suffer the lifelong challenges and stigma of being a convicted felon. When your future is on the line, you need the help of the aggravated arson attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law. We will listen to your story, investigate your case, prepare a strong defense, and fight for your freedom. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of N.J.S.A 2C:17-1
The law governing aggravated arson in New Jersey is found in N.J.S.A 2C:17-1 of the state code. Under state law, a person has committed aggravated arson if they start a fire or cause an explosion to their own property or someone else’s with the purpose of one of the following:
- Knowingly placing another person in danger of death or bodily injury
- Destroying someone’s building or structure
- Collecting insurance for the destruction or damage to property under circumstances that recklessly place another person in danger of death or bodily injury
- Destroying or damaging a structure to exempt it from a state, county, or local regulation under circumstances that recklessly put another person in danger of death or injury
- Destroying or damaging a forest
The distinguishing factor between aggravated arson and simple arson is the defendant’s intent. While both aggravated and simple arson involve intentionally starting a fire, aggravated arson requires the defendant to have purposefully set a fire to achieve their intended result. For example, a defendant who starts a fire to intentionally cause harm to another person could be convicted of aggravated arson. On the other hand, a defendant who starts a fire and harms someone without meaning to could be charged with simple arson.
How to Fight Aggravated Arson Charges in Somerset County
An experienced Somerset County criminal defense lawyer can help you fight an aggravated arson charge. In any criminal case, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime with which they’ve been charged. For a conviction for aggravated arson, the state must prove that you intentionally started the fire to cause harm to others or structures. The standard of proof is high, and intent can be challenging for the prosecution to prove because no one can read another person’s mind.
To fight the charges against you, your lawyer will conduct their own investigation and gather evidence to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case. They may file pretrial motions to have the charge dismissed or seek a plea bargain with the prosecutor for a lesser charge, such as simple arson. If the case goes to trial, your attorney may present one of the following common defenses to an aggravated arson charge:
- You did not intentionally start the fire– Your lawyer may provide evidence from a fire investigator that shows the fire had another cause, such as an accident or another person’s actions.
- You were not at the scene of the fire– You may have an alibi with evidence or testimony that you were somewhere else at the time of the fire.
- You did not intend to harm anyone or anything– An arson lawyer may show evidence of your lack of intent to harm another person or structure.
What Are the Penalties If Convicted of Aggravated Arson?
A defendant convicted of aggravated arson would face five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, they can expect to serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence before they are eligible for parole.
There may be additional consequences depending on the circumstances of the alleged arson. If the defendant targeted a healthcare facility, physician’s office, or a place of worship, they might face even stiffer penalties. For instance, a person convicted of aggravated arson who targeted a church would face a minimum of 15 years in prison. They would face steeper penalties if they offered or accepted any money or benefit in exchange for starting the fire.
Aggravated arson is an indictable crime, an offense known as a felony in most states. Unfortunately, people convicted of felonies often experience the following collateral consequences in addition to statutory punishments:
- Loss of the right to own a gun
- Loss of voting rights
- Limitations on child custody or visitation rights
- Difficulty finding housing
- Difficulty getting a loan
- Difficulty finding a job
- Loss of a license or certification
- Restrictions on entering certain professions
- Difficulty getting into college
If a juvenile is convicted of aggravated arson, they could face several years in a juvenile detention center, as well as community service, monitoring, probation, and fines. But because aggravated arson is a violent crime, the juvenile could be tried as an adult and face even harsher penalties.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Aggravated Arson Charges?
The consequences of an aggravated arson conviction can be life-changing. Your freedom and future are on the line. That’s why you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer as soon as you are charged with or learn that you are being investigated for aggravated arson. You need and deserve a legal advocate who has your best interests in mind. Do not trust the prosecutor or investigator to be looking out for you. Their job is to secure a conviction, not necessarily to secure the right conviction.
A criminal defense lawyer can fight back against aggressive prosecutors and build a strategy based on the facts of your case. They can negotiate with the prosecution for a lesser charge or lighter sentence and present mitigating factors, such as the circumstances at the time of the incident or your record as a good citizen. Your lawyer will defend your right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty and to receive a speedy and fair trial.
Contact an Experienced Aggravated Arson Attorney in Somerset County
You shouldn’t have to fight this battle alone. If you are facing aggravated arson charges in Somerset County, the criminal defense lawyers at Keith Oliver Criminal Law are ready to stand up for your rights and interests. Contact us immediately for a free consultation.