Even if no one is hurt in a fire incident, an arson charge in Washington State could attract severe consequences. Whether the arson is charged in the second or first degree, it is still a felony. Your money and years of freedom are all at stake, considering the harsh sentencing stipulated in the law.
Arson cases become even more complicated when coupled with other charges. Accused persons owe themselves a duty to retain a seasoned Seattle criminal defense attorney in their defense team. An acquittal, dismissal, or lesser charge is the goal of any criminal defense.
What Elements of the Crime Should I Dispute?
It is up to the prosecution to investigate, put together the evidence, and charge you in court in criminal cases. It is their responsibility to show that your actions and the circumstances satisfy all the elements of arson in Seattle.
Arson cases need malicious intentions of destroying a movable or immovable property. If the fire was clearly accidental, it might not result in a conviction.
The jury might have reasons to convict you of arson if someone else’s property got damaged by the fire.
Damage of Property You Own
You can also be convicted for setting your own property on fire for fraudulent reasons. It can also happen if you burn your own property, but it spreads and burns another person’s property.
If your case doesn’t have the above elements of arson, it would be easy to fight the charges. The judge might quickly dismiss the case for lack of evidence.
What Can I Expect at an Arraignment?
Understanding the court processes is critical in making the journey less tense and more predictable. An arraignment is basically the first court appearance after being investigated or arrested.
While you might have been notified of the charges you are facing, it might happen again at the arraignment. This time, you will be appearing before a judge as the charges are formally read out to you. After that, you could be asked to enter a plea.
Should I Plead Guilty?
Unless an experienced attorney advises you otherwise, it is not advisable to enter a guilty plea. Even if you feel like you want to take responsibility for what happened or think that the state has a valid case against you, make sure you take a not guilty plea.
Remember that you will have opportunities to change your plea in the future in case the not guilty plea is not appropriate for your case. It is worth noting that you will not be penalized for the stand you take during the arraignment. Similarly, a not guilty plea isn’t always interpreted as an attempt to evade responsibility.
Do I Need an Attorney, Or Can I Solve It On My Own?
Speaking to an investigator from the insurance company, the fire department, or the police department could worsen your situation. What you might say can be quickly taken out of context and used against you in a future trial.
A skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced arson lawyer in Seattle can inform you of your rights and possible defenses based on the specifics of your case. Importantly, the lawyer could represent you in court and convince the judge of your innocence.
What Defenses Can One Use to Beat Arson Charges in Trial?
While some cases are resolved before they get to trial, others could proceed to full trial. Before then, accused persons might get to choose between a bench and a jury trial with the guidance of an attorney and after weighing the pros and cons. Some of the defenses you can use include:
- Lack of intent
- Mistake of fact
If argued well, an appropriate defense representative can relieve you of all charges. And a winning defense can only be developed after careful case evaluation. The outcome might be reduced charges or a not guilty verdict.
Can Arson Charges Be Reduced?
Arson in Washington State is either a first-degree or a second-degree offense. The seriousness of an arson charge in Seattle is dependent on:
- Whether or not people could have possibly been harmed
- Whether or not people were harmed
- The value of property destroyed in the fire
- Whether you are a first time or consequent offender
It might be possible to get your charges dismissed through the effective investigatory actions and skilled negotiations of a Seattle arson lawyer.
If a dismissal is not possible, the charges could be reduced to:
- The gross misdemeanor charge of malicious mischief in the third degree
- Reckless burning
The earlier you get your case reviewed, the more likely you could get a better outcome. It might be challenging to negotiate with the prosecution when the case advances.
What Penalties Can a Good Defense Help You Beat?
Without a good defense, there is a lot to lose. Arson is a serious crime whose investigations are undertaken by highly trained officials from the fire and police departments. Losing on your defense might come with the following consequences:
- $20,000 in fines and ten years in prison for second-degree arson
- $50,000 in fines and up to life in prison for first-degree arson
The penalties might be even more severe if you are charged along with other offenses such as fraud, attempted murder, or domestic violence. An arson lawyer in Seattle, WA, can help you escape prison and fines by defending you and giving your case the best possible outcome.
Defend Your Rights Today in Seattle
An arson conviction can impair your life. You could pay substantial fines, stay in prison for years, and remain with a criminal record. But luckily, the burden of the evidence lies with the prosecution team. They have to show that you committed each element of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt.
It would be ideal for an attorney to evaluate the evidence against you and counter it with a good defense. A lawyer can also protect your rights and guide you at every stage of the criminal justice process. Kindly reach out to The Law Offices of Kevin Trombold to get started.