Facing Arson Charges in Federal Court
Those who are accused of arson are usually charged in state court. However, it is also not uncommon for a defendant to be charged with arson in federal court, which can have more serious consequences, as federal offenses tend to be aggressively prosecuted and often come with harsher penalties. A person can only be charged in federal court if certain requirements are met, so if you were arrested for arson, it is critical to contact an experienced federal crime lawyer who may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed.
Prohibitions Under Federal Law
Federal law defines arson as the malicious damaging or destruction of any building, vehicle, or personal or real property by means of fire or an explosive. However, a person can only be prosecuted for federal arson if the property in question was:
- Owned, leased to, or possessed by the federal government, one of its agencies, or any organization that receives federal financial assistance; or
- Used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity that affects interstate commerce.
Defendants who are convicted of this offense in federal court will spend a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison, unless someone was injured as a result of the defendant’s alleged actions or was put at substantial risk of injury. In these cases, a sentence can be enhanced to a minimum of seven, but a maximum of 40 years imprisonment. In the event that someone passes away as a result of injuries sustained during a fire or explosion for which a defendant is allegedly responsible, that individual could face no less than 20 years in prison.
While most arson cases only involve allegations of burning down federally owned property, defendants can actually be charged under the arson statute for using fire or an explosive to commit any felony. In fact, a person can even be charged with arson if he or she was merely found in possession of an explosive during the commission of a felony offense.
A variety of different substances can fall under the category of “explosives” when it comes to federal law, which defines it as:
- Any powder used for blasting;
- Any form of high explosive or blasting materials;
- Fuzes, detonators, smokeless powders, or incendiary devices; or
- Any chemical compound, device, or mechanical mixture that contains combustible or oxidizing units, in an amount that ignition by fire, concussion, detonation, friction, or mixture could result in an explosion.
Even being accused of transporting, receiving, or attempting to transport or receive any explosive in interstate commerce can result in a charge of arson if prosecutors can prove that a defendant knew that the substance would be used to damage or destroy property. Even attempting to commit this offense is punishable by ten years in prison.
Call Today for Help Planning Your Own Defense
To speak with an experienced federal crime attorney about your pending arson charges, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys in Miami at 305-670-9919 or send us an online message. Initial case evaluations are conducted free of charge.