Use of Fire Enhancement
Arson is both a state and federal crime. It is charged as a federal crime if you destroy or damage property by using a fire or explosive when the property in question was used in foreign or interstate commerce. However, it will also be charged as a federal crime if it is used in any activity that impacts foreign or interstate commerce. If you’re found guilty of arson in federal court you can face a long term of imprisonment that will be made even longer under certain circumstances, such as when someone was injured in the fire at issue. The court’s use of a fire enhancement will result in an even longer sentence than the one you are already subject to when charged with the underlying felony or arson. If you are charged by federal prosecutors with starting a fire in connection with committing another felony, you should discuss these charges with seasoned Tampa federal criminal defense lawyer Jason Mayberry. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Mayberry brings fresh insights to developing strategies to protect his clients’ rights with regard to use of fire enhancement. It is wise to consult him even before you face charges, while law enforcement officers are still investigating the separate felony and fire in question.Use of Fire Enhancement
Because the potential penalties for a federal defendant convicted of using fire to commit a felony are severe, it is critical for your attorney to mount the best defense possible. Under federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 844, penalties for an arson conviction hinge partly on the context or circumstances of the fire at issue. Enhancements are imposed when fire was used to commit another felony and they can magnify the impact of a federal sentence.
There are many different kinds of federal arson, and they may be harshly punished. Ordinarily, if a jury finds you guilty of arson in federal court, you will face 5 - 20 years in prison. If the fire caused personal injury to someone else, the maximum sentence would be 40 years of incarceration with a minimum of at least 7 years. However, under 18 U.S. Code § 844, anybody that violates certain federal code subsections related to arson, faces sentencing enhancements. When a prosecutor can show specific facts exist, you could face a long term of incarceration.
Under subsection (h) you can be sentenced to incarceration for 10 years, if a prosecutor can show beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
knowingly used fire or an explosive to perpetrate a felony that could be prosecuted in court
that you carried an explosive while perpetrating a felony that could be prosecuted in a United States court, including a felony that provides for an enhanced punishment if perpetrated by the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon or device.
You could be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years. For a second or subsequent conviction, you could be sentenced to imprisonment for two decades. Critically, the court is not allowed to put you on probation or suspend your sentence if you’re convicted under this subsection. Most harshly of the requirements under this enhancement is the requirement that term of imprisonment will run consecutively with any other term of incarceration you faced for the underlying felony in which you used an explosive.
For instance, if the government can prove you made use of the United States mail to defraud the insurance company or committed mail fraud in connection with committing arson, you could face a use of fire enhancement.
The court is not allowed to put you on probation or suspend your sentence if you’re convicted of violating the subsection that governs the enhancement. Moreover, the term of imprisonment will need to run consecutively with another term of imprisonment, including what was imposed for your felony conviction arising out facts in which an explosive was put to use or carried.Defenses
It’s important to realize that neither a conviction nor a sentencing enhancement are inevitable in the Tampa area. Our seasoned trial attorney may be able to raise reasonable doubt or show that the use of the particular device in questions doesn’t fall within the ordinary, common or contemporary meaning of “use of fire.” We may be able to point to the history, context and purpose of the law to clarify for the court that Congress didn’t intend the language to apply to the particular tool the prosecutor claims you used to start a fire. For instance, in one case, the court determined that using a thermal lance tool, which is usually used to cut through metal using intense heat, would not cause a fire. The court is supposed to apply the rule of lenity in situations in which defendants didn’t have fair warning that their actions were subject to an enhancement penalty.Hire a Florida Law Firm for Your Federal Arson Charges
It is important to take the prospect of a use of fire enhancement seriously. You should discuss your situation with Tampa criminal defense attorney Jason Mayberry. Using insights gained as both a former prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer, 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.