Arson Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC
Arson in SC is a serious offense that can carry a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison.
It means what most people think – you set fire to a property. But, the details of the statutory definitions can make the difference between arson 3rd degree and the possibility of probation or arson 1st degree and a minimum of 30 years…
How is Arson Defined Under SC Law?
Arson is when a person “willfully and maliciously causes an explosion, sets fire to, burns, or causes to be burned or aids, counsels, or procures a burning that results in damage to a building, structure,” or other types of property that are specific to arson second and third degree.
“Willfully and maliciously” is a specific intent that must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt for a person to be convicted of arson.
To be considered arson, the act must result in damage. Damage can mean: “burning, charring, blistering, scorching, smoking, singeing, discoloring, or changing the fiber or composition of a building, structure, or any property” covered by the arson statutes.
There are three “degrees” of arson in SC – the degree is determined by the type of building or structure that is damaged and whether anyone was hurt.
Arson can mean that you personally set the fire or caused the damage, or it could mean that you helped another person commit arson or paid someone else to cause the damage. It also does not matter if the property belongs to you or is someone else’s.
Arson Third Degree
Third-degree arson covers situations where the damaged property is “a railway car, a ship, boat, or other watercraft, an aircraft, an automobile or other motor vehicle, or personal property.” It carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison (no mandatory minimum).
Arson Second Degree
Second-degree arson covers situations where the damaged property is “a dwelling house, church or place of worship, public or private school facility, manufacturing plant or warehouse, building where business is conducted, institutional facility, or any structure designed for human occupancy including local and municipal buildings.”
Arson 2nd degree carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years and up to 25 years in prison.
Arson First Degree
First-degree arson could involve any of the buildings or structures listed under second and third-degree arson, with the added requirement that someone was killed or suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the arson.
Arson 1st degree is punishable by no less than 30 years…
Expert Witnesses in Arson Investigations
The County has an arson investigator who will most likely appear at your trial as an expert witness. In other cases, an insurance company’s arson investigator may be telling the police that you set the fire to commit insurance fraud – they also may have an expert witness ready to testify if needed.
You, also, will most likely need an independent arson investigator who can determine what the cause of the fire was and who can testify at your trial if needed. We have a full range of experts available to assist in your case, depending on the facts of your case and the issues that may arise at trial.
SC Arson Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston
If you have been charged with arson in the Charleston, SC area, you need a criminal defense lawyer who has experience with arson cases and you will most likely need an independent arson investigator who can determine the cause of the fire, review the state’s evidence, and testify at your trial if needed.
The state is preparing their case against you right now – don’t delay and don’t take chances with your freedom. Call Charleston criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.