Arson

While many fires are the results of honest accidents, some investigations into the causes determine that an individual intentionally set the blaze. When authorities suspect an alleged offender of committing arson, that person can face felony charges.

Arson cases rarely involve any witnesses, so authorities often must rely on certain types of scientific and circumstantial evidence. Alleged offenders may be the property owners themselves accused of setting fires for financial gain (possibly leading to additional criminal charges for insurance fraud) or they may be other people who are believed to have set the fires out of acts of revenge or aggression against the property owners.

Lawyer for Arson Arrests in Raleigh, NC

If you think that you might be under investigation or you were already arrested for allegedly committing arson in the Research Triangle, it will be in your best interest to not make any kind of statement to authorities without legal representation. The Coolidge Law Firm aggressively defends clients accused of property crimes all over Wake County, including Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Wake Forest, Garner, Holly Springs, and several other nearby communities.

Raleigh criminal defense attorney David Coolidge also represents students accused of various theft and property crimes at such local colleges as Meredith College, William Peace University, North Carolina State University (NCSU), and Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech). He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (919) 239-8448 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.


North Carolina Arson Information Center


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Arson Charges in Wake County

North Carolina General Statute § 14-58 divides common law arson offenses into two degrees. The burning of an occupied dwelling (defined under the North Carolina General Statutes as a residential structure or “any building, structure, manufactured home or mobile home, or part thereof, used and occupied for human habitation or intended to be so used”) constitutes the Class D felony offense of arson in the first degree, but the burning of an unoccupied dwelling is the Class G felony offense of arson in the second degree.

Chapter 14, Article 15 of the North Carolina General Statutes also contains several other criminal offenses related to unlawful burnings. Additional crimes established under this article of the statutes include:

  • Burning of certain public buildings — Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-59, it is a Class F felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, the State Capitol, the Legislative Building, the Justice Building or any building owned or occupied by the State or any of its agencies, institutions or subdivisions or by any county, incorporated city or town or other governmental or quasi-governmental entity;
  • Burning of schoolhouses or buildings of educational institutions — North Carolina General Statute § 14-60 makes it a Class F felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any schoolhouse or building owned, leased or used by any public or private school, college or educational institution;
  • Burning of certain bridges and buildings — Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-61, it is a Class F felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any public bridge, or private toll bridge, or the bridge of any incorporated company, or any fire-engine house or rescue-squad building, or any house belonging to an incorporated company or unincorporated association and used in the business of such company or association;
  • Burning of certain buildings — North Carolina General Statute § 14-62 makes it a Class F felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any uninhabited house, or any stable, coach house, outhouse, warehouse, office, shop, mill, barn or granary, or any building, structure or erection used or intended to be used in carrying on any trade or manufacture, or any branch thereof, whether the same or any of them respectively shall then be in the possession of the alleged offender, or in the possession of any other person;
  • Burning of building or structure in process of construction — Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-62.1, it is a Class H felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any building or structure in the process of construction for use or intended to be used as a dwelling house or in carrying on any trade or manufacture, or otherwise, whether the same or any of them respectively shall then be in the possession of the alleged offender, or in the possession of any other person;
  • Burning of churches and certain other religious buildings — North Carolina General Statute § 14-62.2 makes it a Class E felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of any church, chapel, or meetinghouse;
  • Burning of boats and barges — Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-63, it is a Class H felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any boat, barge, ferry or float, without the consent of the owner thereof;
  • Burning of ginhouses and tobacco houses — North Carolina General Statute § 14-64 makes it a Class H felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any ginhouse or tobacco house, or any part thereof;
  • Fraudulently setting fire to dwelling houses — Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-65, it is a Class H felony if an alleged offender, being the occupant of any building used as a dwelling house, whether such person is the owner thereof or not, or, being the owner of any building designed or intended as a dwelling house, wantonly and willfully or for a fraudulent purpose sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned, or aids, counsels or procures the burning of such building;
  • Burning of personal property — North Carolina General Statute § 14-66 makes it a Class H felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any goods, wares, merchandise or other chattels or personal property of any kind, whether or not the same shall at the time be insured by any person or corporation against loss or damage by fire, with intent to injure or prejudice the insurer, the creditor or the person owning the property, or any other person, whether the property is that of such person or another; and
  • Burning other buildings — Under North Carolina General Statute § 14-67.1, it is a Class H felony if an alleged offender wantonly and willfully sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or aids, counsels or procures the burning of any building or other structure of any type not otherwise covered by the provisions of this Article.

North Carolina General Statute § 14-69.3 also makes it a Class E felony if an alleged offender commits any of the felony offenses listed above and a firefighter or emergency medical technician (EMT) suffers serious bodily injury while discharging or attempting to discharge the firefighter’s or EMT’s duties on the property, or proximate to the property.


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Arson Penalties in Raleigh

The possible punishment that an alleged offender receives if convicted of arson depends on multiple factors. In addition to the grade of felony that the alleged offense is classified under, an individual’s prior criminal record also impacts the length of any possible sentence.

North Carolina uses a “structured sentencing” method of punishing criminals that imposes three different kinds of punishments: An active punishment involves incarceration in the state prison system, an intermediate punishment is a sentence of supervised probation as well as other possible conditions, and a community punishment is any sentence other than an active punishment.

Alleged offenders accused of felony offenses will be placed into one of six different prior record levels, depending on how many points they are assigned based on their criminal records. Each possible punishment is also broken up into three different punishment ranges: a mitigated range for cases with mitigating factors, an aggravated range for cases with aggravating factors, and a presumptive range for cases with an equal amount of or no mitigating factors and aggravating factors. Felony convictions also result in a mandatory nine-month period of post-supervision release.

The arson offenses listed above may be punishable as follows:

 

Prior Record Level I
(0-1 point)

Prior Record Level II
(2-5 points)

Prior Record Level III
(6-9 points)

Prior Record Level IV
(10-13 points)

Prior Record Level V
(14-17 points)

Prior Record Level VI
(18+ points)

Class D

Active

Active

Active

Active

Active

Active

Aggravated

64-80 months

73-92 months

84-105 months

97-121 months

111-139 months

128-160 months

Presumptive

51-64 months

59-73 months

67-84 months

78-97 months

89-111 months

103-128 months

Mitigated

38-51 months

44-59 months

51-67 months

58-78 months

67-89 months

77-103 months

Class E

Intermediate or Active

Intermediate or Active

Active

Active

Active

Active

Aggravated

25-31 months

29-36 months

33-41 months

38-48 months

44-55 months

50-63 months

Presumptive

20-25 months

23-29 months

26-33 months

30-38 months

35-44 months

45-50 months

Mitigated

15-20 months

17-23 months

20-26 months

23-30 months

26-35 months

30-40 months

Class F

Intermediate or Active

Intermediate or Active

Intermediate or Active

Active

Active

Active

Aggravated

16-20 months

19-23 months

21-27 months

25-31 months

28-36 months

33-41 months

Presumptive

13-16 months

15-19 months

17-21 months

20-25 months

23-28 months

26-33 months

Mitigated

10-13 months

11-15 months

13-17 months

15-20 months

17-23 months

20-26 months

Class G

Active

Active

Active

Active

Active

Active

Aggravated

13-16 months

14-18 months

17-21 months

19-24 months

22-27 months

25-31 months

Presumptive

10-13 months

12-14 months

13-17 months

15-19 months

17-22 months

20-25 months

Mitigated

8-10 months

9-12 months

10-13 months

11-15 months

13-17 months

15-20 months

Class H

Community, Intermediate, or Active

Intermediate or Active

Intermediate or Active

Intermediate or Active

Intermediate or Active

Active

Aggravated

6-8 months

8-10 months

10-12 months

11-14 months

15-19 months

20-25 months

Presumptive

5-6 months

6-8 months

8-10 months

9-11 months

12-15 months

16-20 months

Mitigated

4-5 months

4-6 months

6-8 months

7-9 months

9-12 months

12-16 months


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North Carolina Arson Resources

Fire Department | Raliegh, NC — Visit this website to learn more about the Raleigh Fire Department. You can report fire hazards, request an inspection, and find answers to frequently asked questions. The website also contains information about fire education and various seminars.

Raleigh Fire Department
310 W. Martin St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 996-6115

North Carolina Chapter of The International Association of Arson Investigators (NCIAAI) — The NCIAAI is one of 63 Chapters of the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), consisting of personnel from the fire service, law enforcement, insurance, and legal fields. On this website, you can learn more about the objective, code of ethics, and committees of the NCIAAI. You can also report arsonists and find several related articles of interest.


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The Coolidge Law Firm | Raleigh Arson Defense Attorney

Were you recently arrested or do you think that you could be under investigation in the Research Triangle area for an alleged arson crime? Do not say anything to authorities until you have legal counsel. The Coolidge Law Firm fights to protect the rights of clients in Fuquay-Varina, Morrisville, Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon, Rolesville, and other surrounding areas of Wake County.

David Coolidge is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Raleigh who also helps students at such local institutions of higher learning as Shaw University, Duke University, North Carolina State University (NCSU), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Call (919) 239-8448 or complete an online contact form to have our attorneys review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free initial consultation.


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