Trenton NJ Arson Lawyer
Law Firm with Offices in Trenton and Pennington, New Jersey
Arson is perhaps the most serious property crime in the New Jersey Criminal Code. Arson most commonly occurs when an individual intentionally starts a fire in order to collect insurance money after a building or structure burns down. However, the law broadly prohibits anyone from intentionally starting a fire or otherwise causing an explosion which damages another person’s structure. The law also makes it illegal for anyone to recklessly start a fire which places other people in danger. This means that even if you did not intend to start the fire, you could still be subject to felony-level charges.
Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson is a highly respected law firm with a rich tradition in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Our criminal defense lawyers have more than 40 years of experience defending clients against arson charges throughout Mercer County, NJ, including Lawrence, Hopewell, and Hightstown. If you have been accused of intentionally starting a fire, call KCR today to discuss your case with an experienced litigator and start your defense.
Arson Law in Mercer County New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1
N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1 governs arson charges in the State of New Jersey. Although the arson law is often invoked when a person burns down their own property for the purpose of defrauding an insurance company, the statute is actually quite broad and applies in a number of circumstances:
- First Degree Arson: The most serious type of arson is “arson for hire,” which occurs when the defendant either paid someone else to start a fire or accepted payment to start a fire. A person can also be charged with first degree arson if the target of the fire was a place of worship like a church or a mosque.
- Second Degree Arson: Second degree arson is commonly referred to as “aggravated arson.” Aggravated arson charges apply if a person purposely starts a fire and knowingly creates a risk of injury to another person or property damage. A person can also be charged with aggravated arson if they start a fire with the intent to collect insurance money on the destroyed property.
- Third Degree Arson: Third degree arson charges can be brought against anyone who recklessly starts a fire and knowingly creates a risk of injury to another person or property.
- Fourth Degree Arson: Anyone who has a legal duty to stop a fire must take reasonable steps to put out a fire. Additionally, an individual with a legal duty to stop a fire must report a fire which poses a threat to person or property.
Penalties for Arson in Hamilton NJ
The penalties for arson vary, depending upon a number of factors, including the offender’s intent when starting the fire, the risk of property damage or injury to another person, and whether the offender was paid to start the fire.
The penalties are ultimately determined by the classification of the charge:
- First Degree Felony: A conviction for first degree arson is punishable by a sentence of 10–20 years in NJ State Prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Additionally, an offender is subject to a sentencing enhancement if the target of the fire was a place of public worship; in those cases, the offender must serve a minimum of 15 years in state prison before becoming eligible for parole.
- Second Degree Felony: A conviction for second degree aggravated arson is punishable by a sentence of 5–10 years in NJ State Prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Additionally, since second degree arson is listed in the No Early Release Act (NERA), this means that an offender will be required to serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
- Third Degree Felony: A conviction for third degree aggravated arson is punishable by a sentence of 3–5 years in NJ State Prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
- Fourth Degree Felony: A conviction for fourth degree aggravated arson is punishable by a sentence of up to 18 months in NJ State Prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Free Consultation with Princeton NJ Arson Attorneys
Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson will help you fight your arson charges and do what is necessary to keep you out of prison. Call us now to speak with a member of our criminal defense team, or fill out the online contact form to schedule a meeting at our Trenton or Pennington offices.