Many of us have seen movies or television shows in which a person causes a building to explode and then gets arrested for arson. In reality, however, an act does not have to be dramatic as a huge explosion in order for arson charges to be possible. In fact, you may find yourself facing arson charges—and the very serious consequences that come along with a conviction—when very little damage occurred at all. There are still specific elements a prosecutor must prove to convict you or arson, so it is always important to hire an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer who knows how to defend this type of charge and help you avoid conviction.
What is Arson?
In order to convict you of arson in Illinois, the law requires that a prosecutor prove the following elements:
- You used fire or explosives; and
- You caused damage to another’s property that is worth more than $150; or
- You caused damage to your own property worth more than $150 with the intent to defraud an insurance company.
The property in question can be real property or personal property. Therefore, while most people think associate arson with burning down a house, arson may also apply to fire damage to cars, furniture, and much more.
Arson in a Residence or Place of Worship
There are specific charges set out for residential arson and arson in a place of worship. As you can imagine, residential arson occurs when you use fire or explosives to damage any part of someone else’s dwelling and place of worship arson occurs when you damage any part of a church, synagogue, mosque, or place of other religious worship. The damage does not have to be great, as you may be charged with arson by simply burning a small part of a porch or wall.
You may be charged with aggravated arson if you use fire or explosives to damage property and any of the following factors apply:
- You knew or reasonably should have known that at least one person was present inside the building;
- A person suffered permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or great bodily harm
- A firefighter, police officer, or correctional officer on duty on the scene suffered injury from the fire or explosion.
“Property” can mean a home, or can mean any of the following: vehicle, house trailer, watercraft, train car, or school building, which can include preschools, private schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, community colleges, or universities.
Penalties for Arson Offenses
Arson is a very serious offense and the penalties are as follows under the law:
- Arson – Class 2 – 3-7 years in prison
- Residential or place of worship arson – Class 1 – 4-15 years in prison
- Aggravated arson – Class X – 6-30 years in prison
In order to limit the consequences you face for an arson charge, or to get the charges dismissed completely, you should always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Steven Goldman has successfully defended countless clients, so do not hesitate to call Goldman & Associates for help today.