Arson is the crime of deliberately damaging or destroying property by fire or explosives. It’s treated as a serious offense for two reasons. First, arson is accomplished with fire, whose consequences are costly and potentially harmful to human life. Second, some people destroy their property in order to fraudulently collect insurance money or to settle business disputes. The authorities want to keep these things from happening at all costs, so they put in place harsh penalties for anyone convicted of arson.
The outcome of your arson case will likely turn on whether there is evidence that you acted knowingly or not. Accidental fires are not considered criminal – although you may still face civil consequences for your negligence. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we will stand by your side and help you overcome your arson charges by putting up a thorough and spirited defense of your case.
To learn more about how we can help, call us now at for a free and confidential case consultation.
How Does Ohio Law Define Arson?
According to Ohio Code section 2909.3, you may be convicted of arson if you knowingly do any of the following by means of fire or an explosion:
- Cause or create a substantial risk of harm to someone else’s property without that person’s consent
- Cause or create a substantial risk of harm to any property with the intent to defraud
- As part of a contractual agreement, to cause or create a substantial risk of harm to any property with the intent to defraud
- Cause or create a substantial risk of harm to a court, school, or any other public or government building
- Cause or create a substantial risk of harm to a park, nature preserve, or forest
- Cause or create a substantial risk of harm to a park, nature preserve, or forest with the intent to defraud
Penalties for Arson in Ohio
Harming or destroying someone else’s property is a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. But, if the destroyed property was worth more than $1,000, the offense becomes a felony of the fourth degree punishable by six to 18 months in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
All other types of arson listed above are felonies of the fourth degree, except when the arson is conducted as a result of a contractual agreement. In that case, the offense becomes a felony of the third degree carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison $10,000 in fines.
In addition to the fines and prison sentences outlined above, a conviction for arson may result in the following collateral consequences:
- Significant litigation costs
- Loss of your job
- Trouble finding a new job because of your criminal record
- Lowered chances of gaining admission to college
- Restricted gun ownership and voting rights
- Bar from practicing most professions requiring a license
- For immigrants, possible deportation
- Having to compensate the victims for their property damage
Defending Against Your Arson Charges
To convict you of arson, the prosecutor will need solid proof that you were the one who started the fire, and that you did so willfully. This means that the prosecutor’s case can leave no doubt as to whether someone else may have possibly lit the fire, and that the fire was not an accident. This is a difficult burden for prosecutors to overcome–especially if there is a good defense lawyer standing in their way.
To prove your identity as the culprit, the prosecutor may be relying on eyewitness testimony or the footage of video surveillance cameras. A skilled Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer can show a jury how these forms of evidence leave room for doubt. Through skillful cross-examination, it may emerge that eyewitnesses don’t remember the events as clearly as they claim. Video surveillance may be grainy, or show the incident from an angle that does not conclusively show the perpetrator’s identity.
To prove that you knowingly started the fire, the prosecutor will likely need to rely on your statements. But if you exercise your right to remain silent, you’re denying the prosecutor’s ability to take your statements out of context to prove your criminal intent. Otherwise, the prosecutor might rely on circumstantial evidence, such as whether you brought fire lighting materials to the scene or took other deliberate steps to make a fire.
The prosecutor may be pressuring you to plead guilty. Do not do so before consulting with an experienced Cincinnati arson attorney, because it may be possible for you to win your case. Depending on the evidence available to the prosecutor, there may be several possible strategies for the defense of your case.