People commit arson for many different reasons including revenge, insurance fraud, or needing to destroy evidence of other crimes. However, in some cases, people are falsely accused of starting a fire or are set up by another person or a mistake is made. Arson may be charged under state or federal statutes. Federal law enforcement officers take seriously any fire that has been started to burn property used in interstate commerce, meaning that if the property burned crossed state lines in some capacity, the federal government has jurisdiction to bring charges. If you are being investigated or you are concerned about arson charges, you should discuss your situation with seasoned Tampa federal criminal defense attorney Jason Mayberry. Mr. Mayberry pours himself into building zealous and impactful defenses for his accused clients, all the while making himself available to his clients for their own comfort and information exchange. Candid discussion is invited and achieved.Arson in Tampa
Under 18 U.S.C. § 844(i), in the Middle District of Florida you could be convicted of arson in federal court if a prosecutor proves the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
The Defendant damaged or destroyed or attempted to damage or destroy a building or vehicle or other property described in the indictment by means of fire or explosive;
The actions were intentional or with a deliberate disregard that damage or injury would result;
the object that the Defendant damaged or destroyed or attempted to damage or destroy was used in interstate or foreign commerce or in activity affecting foreign or interstate commerce.
You can face charges for a range of other serious crimes under the arson statute as, well when structures or activities involving interstate commerce are at issue. For instance, if you threatened to burn down an airport over the telephone or in a piece of mailed correspondence, you could be charged with an arson crime under the federal statute. In other words, you don’t need to take the actual steps to burn down or cause an explosion at a commercial structure in order to be charged with an arson crime. Under 18 U.S.C. § 844(d), possessing or transporting an explosive intending to burn or damage a person or building may be punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison. You could also be charged for conspiracy to perpetrate arson or engage in interstate transport of explosive materials if you have a reasonable expectation you’re providing materials that will be used to perpetrate arson.Sentencing for Arson
Federal courts punish arson harshly. If you are convicted of arson in federal court, you could face 5 – 20 years in prison, along with other penalties. If you cause personal injury in connection with arson, you could face incarceration for 7 – 40 years. For instance, if the court believes you burned down a warehouse that is part of interstate commerce and some workers in the warehouse suffered disfiguring burns, you could face up to 40 years. If a person dies as a result of your actions in a situation such as this, you could be subject to imprisonment for any term of years, including life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Certain other arson crimes in Tampa are punished harshly as well. You could face fines or 20 years imprisonment if you are convicted of doing any of the following:
Instructing or demonstrating or distributing material on how to make a destructive device, explosive, or weapon of mass destruction. In this situation the prosecutor would also need to prove you intended your actions to further activity that constitutes a federal crime of violence.
Instructing, demonstrating, or distributing material on the making or use of a destructive device, explosive, or weapon of mass destruction. The prosecutor would also need to show you acted knowing the materials would be used in furtherance of an activity constituting a federal crime of violence.
If you carry or receive any explosive in interstate or foreign commerce, and a prosecutor is able to show you knew or intended to use the explosive to injure another, you could face incarceration for up to 10 years or fined. Sentencing is similarly harsh if you injure a public safety officer or cause his death while performing his duties. For instance, if you kill a federal law enforcement officer who is trying to stop you from starting a fire in a commercial structure used for alien smuggling you could face imprisonment for any term of years, along with the death penalty or life imprisonment.Consult an Experienced Tampa Arson Lawyer
The federal arson statute applies to malicious burning and exploding of commercial structures. It is not meant to be applied to private homes that aren’t specifically used in commerce. If you’re charged with arson under the federal statute, it is vital to take the charges seriously. You should discuss your situation with Tampa criminal defense attorney Jason Mayberry. Using insights gained as both a former prosecutor and years defending the accused, Mr. Mayberry may be able to develop a strong defense strategy if you are charged with arson in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, Sarasota, Hernando or Polk Counties. He is admitted to practice before the federal Middle District of Florida, federal Southern District of Florida, along with state court. Call the Mayberry Law Firm at (813) 444-7435 or complete our online form.