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What is arson?

Residents of New Jersey may be interested to know that arson is defined as deliberately setting fire to buildings or property for detrimental or fraudulent purposes. Because this crime has a high potential to cause death, serious injury or extensive property damage, many jurisdictions prosecute arson as a felony offense. The legal penalties for arson can vary based on the extent of the damage that the fire causes.

Arson may be perpetrated in order to damage or destroy the property of another person as an act of revenge. Many arson cases occur as the result of a fraud scheme. In these cases, a person may set fire to some of their property in an attempt to collect insurance payouts. Arson may also occur in criminal cases as an effort to hide or obscure incriminating evidence.

Investigating a case of suspected arson can be complex. Police investigators must determine whether or not a fire was set intentionally or if it occurred as the result of an accident. This can be difficult because recovering evidence from the scene of a large fire may take a great deal of time. Investigators will often search for the presence of accelerants like gasoline as well as find out if the burned property was insured against fire damage.

Convicting a person of arson can be a difficult task for the prosecution. A defense attorney may be able to counter arson charges by introducing evidence that shows that the defendant was not present at the scene of the crime or had no motive to commit arson. Defense strategies could also include an alibi backed up by eyewitness testimony or an attempt to prove that crime scene evidence was collected improperly. Every criminal case is unique, and the information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice.

Source: FindLaw, "Arson", November 11, 2014

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