Cleveland Arson Attorney
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Fires occur for various reasons. Some are purely accidental, while others are malicious, often set out of anger or for financial gain. Since fires carry the potential for severe property damage, injury, and loss of life, the law treats intentionally set fires seriously and aggressively pursues criminal charges. If you have been accused of purposefully igniting a fire or causing an explosion in Ohio, you may be charged with arson or aggravated arson and could face years behind bars, substantial financial losses, a permanent mark on your criminal record, and registration in a statewide database.
Addressing arson accusations can be incredibly difficult. There will be reports from arson investigators and other technical pieces of evidence to analyze. The best thing you can do is consult a Cleveland arson attorney from The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC. A former firefighter and founding member of Cuyahoga County’s arson prosecution unit, attorney Margolis is in a unique position to help with your case. By taking a proactive approach and having a Cleveland criminal defense lawyer with first-hand knowledge of how arson cases are approached, you gain a significant advantage in protecting your rights and building a strong defense.
If you are charged or under investigation for arson in Ohio, contact an experienced arson defense attorney with The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC today. Call (216) 533-9533 or submit a request through our online form to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Ohio Arson Law
Per Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 2909.03, it is illegal for any person, by using fire or explosion, to knowingly:
- Create risk of physical harm to another person’s property without their consent
- Create or cause harm to their own property with the purpose to defraud
- Cause damage to a courthouse, school, police station or other government-owned building used for a public purpose
- Create damage to any park, preserve, wildlands, forest, woods, or other privately or state-owned lands, with or without the intent to commit fraud
Put simply; arson involves setting fire to property or damaging it with an explosion, whether the property is a home, business, another structure, or land itself. In arson cases, it is important to remember that even if the property is an individual’s own home or business, they can still be charged.
Penalties for Arson in Ohio
The legal punishments following an arson conviction in Ohio largely depend on the value of what was damaged and the type of structure. You may also be ordered to repay the cost associated with the fire suppression and its investigation. If the value of the damaged property was less than $1,000, the offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. This will be punished by up to 180 days in jail, and a maximum fine of $1,000. If the value was more than $1,000, the arson offense is a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison, and fines reaching $5,000. Additionally, if the arson offense involves an agreement for hire, the offense is a third-degree felony, with a possible prison term from one to five years and fines up to $10,000.
There are also certain factors that make an arson charge more egregious with heightened repercussions. Aggravated arson is defined by the Ohio Revised Code (ORC), Chapter 2909.02. It states that no one, by using fire or explosion, can knowingly cause:
- A substantial risk of physical harm to any person other than the offender
- Physical harm to any occupied structure
Essentially, you face a higher-level offense and harsher punishments if you set fire to an occupied structure, as opposed to an empty building. Based on the ORC, an occupied structure could be a house, building, boat, airplane, railroad car, truck, trailer, tent, or any vehicle or shelter where any portion is a permanent or temporary dwelling, adapted for overnight accommodation, or whether anyone was present at the time.
Penalties for Aggravated Arson
If you are accused of setting fire to an occupied structure or caused one to explode, you may be charged with a second-degree felony, penalized between two and eight years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. If you are charged with aggravated arson because you created a substantial risk of physical harm to someone else, you may face first-degree felony charges, punishable by three to 10 years in prison, $20,000 in fines, and reimbursing the cost of the fire’s suppression and investigation.
Additional Consequences of an Arson Conviction
If you are convicted of arson or aggravated arson, you can expect several penalties and collateral consequences in addition to incarceration and fines, including:
- A permanent criminal record
- Community service
- Paying the costs of fighting the fire or explosion and its investigation
- Ohio arson registration with your county sheriff’s office
- Difficulty getting into college or graduate school
- Difficulty obtaining professional licenses
- Challenges maintaining employment
- Immigration issues
Arson Registration in Ohio
In 2012, the state of Ohio signed Senate Bill 70 into law. Essentially, this established a registry for arson offenders in Ohio as an added consequence for a conviction and requires offenders to register personally with the Sheriff of the county in which they reside. The law applies to anyone convicted of arson, aggravated arson, or an arson-related offense and mandates that they register their address with once a year for life. Each offender must pay a $50 fee for their initial registration and $25 each following year. The funds will be spent on maintenance of the system and will be made available as an investigative tool for law enforcement and fire officials with the objective of quickly identifying convicted arsonists living near active arson scenes.
Arson Defense Options
When people are charged with arson or aggravated arson, they may think their situation is hopeless, but there are always ways to improve your situation, defend yourself, or explain how the fire was an accident. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the fire, you may have one or more defense options. For instance, arson investigations are technical and should comply with national standards. Very few attorneys are aware of these requirements.
A knowledgeable arson lawyer will evaluate all the evidence and may present alternative causes of how the fire or explosion originated. Furthermore, an arson attorney can help point to any weaknesses in the case and argue that you cannot be convicted if there is not enough evidence that you knowingly caused or created the hazard.
There may also be a situation in which you had permission to cause the fire or explosion. In this case, we will highlight the consent or your authority to start the fire. Additionally, the police may simply have the wrong person. If you had nothing to do with the fire or explosion and were the victim of a police oversight or mistaken identity, we will tell your side of the story. This may include proving where you were and what you were doing at the time of the incident.
Contact a Cleveland Arson Attorney Today
If you have been charged with arson or aggravated arson, you need to have a knowledgeable and skilled attorney by your side. By calling an arson lawyer from The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC, you will have someone with comprehensive experience in arson cases scrutinizing every aspect and working to obtain the best possible outcome. Whether this includes a reduction in the arson-related charges, a total dismissal based on improper or illegal evidence, or pursuing an acquittal, attorney Margolis knows what it takes to achieve favorable results.