Aiken Arson Lawyer

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Arson charges may be brought against an individual when law enforcement determines that a fire was deliberately started, in violation of S.C. Code Ann. 16-11-110 et seq. Establishing whether a fire was intentional or accidental is usually contingent on circumstantial evidence.

If you are facing arson charges in Aiken, South Carolina, you will require the services of an experienced defense attorney who has the means to ascertain that the investigation and evidence collection were conducted in line with standard procedures.

The Aiken arson lawyers at Johnson, Johnson, Whittle, Lancer and Staggs can offer the empathetic, results-focused representation you require when these charges are brought against you. Our legal team will provide tailored attention from start to end and fearlessly fight hard to secure a favorable case result.

Don’t face arson charges alone. Contact us today at (803) 649-5338 to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss how we can assist you in protecting your legal rights and future.

Table of Contents

What is Arson?

In South Carolina, arson is defined as the act of maliciously and intentionally burning, setting ablaze, triggering an explosion, or causing a property or structure to be burned, leading to severe physical harm or death. These properties and structures can include; schools, businesses, places of worship, private residences, warehouses, institutional facilities, and structures constructed for occupancy.

Arson charges are extremely serious, and South Carolina prosecutors often pursue them aggressively. Arson is classified as a felony, and getting a conviction can result in jail time, a criminal record, and thousands of dollars in fines.

What Qualifies as Arson, and What Are the Different Degrees of Arson?

Most individuals are under the impression that a structure must be entirely burned down to qualify as arson. Under South Carolina state law, for a fire or explosion to be classified as arson, it must result in some form of damage, no matter how minor. Additionally, regardless of whether the property is yours or not, deliberately starting a fire can result in an arson conviction.

In this case, damage can be described as any action that “burns, blisters, chars, scorches, smokes, singes, discolors, or alters the composition or fiber of a property. The different degrees of arson in South Carolina include;

First Degree Arson

Each of these elements of first degree arson must be established beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the state to obtain a conviction:

  • A deliberate and malicious intention,
  • An individual is responsible for causing an explosion, setting ablaze to, burning, or helps, counsels, or acquires a burning that leads to the destruction of a structure, building, or property, and
  • The fire or explosion leads to severe physical injury or death – either indirectly or directly.

Second Degree Arson

Each of these elements of second degree arson must be established beyond a reasonable doubt for the state to obtain a conviction:

  • A deliberate and malicious intention;
  • An individual who causes an explosion, sets ablaze to, burns, causes to be burned, or who helps, counsels, or acquires a burning that leads to the destruction of a dwelling house, place of worship, private or public school facility, warehouse or manufacturing plant, business, institutional center or any establishment intended for human occupancy.

Third Degree Arson

Elements of third degree arson which the state must establish beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction, include:

  • A deliberate and malicious intention,
  • An individual is responsible for causing an explosion, setting ablaze to, burning, or causing a burning, or helps, counsels, or acquires a burning, and
  • The fire or explosion leads to the destruction of a structure or building not specified in 1st or 2nd degree statutes, or a boat, ship, railway car, or other watercraft, an automobile, an aircraft, or personal property.

What Are the Potential Consequences of an Arson Conviction?

Under SC law, all degrees of arson are classified as felonies. A conviction can have significant consequences for anybody accused or charged. An arson charge in South Carolina can carry hefty fines and several years in jail.

Having a criminal record can adversely affect your chances of advancing your career or securing a job and having a normal personal life due to societal stigma. Arson penalties in South Carolina include:

  • 1st Degree Arson: Carries a minimum prison sentence of 30 years to life.
  • 2nd Degree Arson: Carries a minimum jail term of 3 years and a maximum of 25 years.
  • 3rd Degree Arson: Not more than 15 years in jail.

What Are Common Defenses Against Arson Charges?

Arson cases can be complex and messy, plus they are often not clear-cut. So, when arson charges have been brought against you in Aiken, SC, it is crucial to have a solid defense to prevent a felony conviction.

Some of the common defenses our Aiken arson lawyers at JJWLS can use include:

Challenging the Evidence

Getting charged with arson doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be convicted. An arson conviction is warranted only if it is proven you started the fire willfully and intentionally. We can argue that you did not act with the specified intent or aim.

For example, you accidentally set fire to an object. We will conduct an independent investigation to verify the evidence against you in the arson case.

Our attorneys will aim to prove there’s insufficient evidence available to establish you are responsible for starting the fire or the fire resulted from arson.

We can also build your arson defense by contesting that the charges brought against you are baseless. Somebody who has ill intent towards you can put forward a false arson accusation that sees you get arrested.

We can challenge this charge by proving you have been unjustly blamed. We will acquire witness statements, and surveillance footage, interview other investigators, review the insurance contract and report, analyze the damaged structure, and ascertain the cause of the fire.

Our legal team will dedicate available resources and ample time to establish the facts and discredit the prosecution’s case.

Questioning Investigative Procedures

Arson cases are mostly hinged on fire investigation procedures and expert opinions. Our arson defense attorney may contest the techniques used by fire investigators and cast doubt on the validity of their conclusions.

We will consult with independent fire experts to offer alternative explanations for the cause of the fire or cast a light on potential investigative mishaps. Challenging the fire investigation techniques used and their reliability may weaken the prosecution’s case and bolster your defense.

Offering Alternative Explanations for the Fire

Another potential defense in arson cases is proving that the fire erupted as a result of something else besides arson. Alternative explanations for the cause of a fire include old or faulty wiring, lighting or adverse weather (particularly for wildfires), heating and cooking equipment, smoking, and candles.

Our attorneys can challenge the arson charge by proving that one of these factors caused the fire.

We will advocate for your rights throughout the entirety of your arson case. Our law firm is committed to formulating a robust defense for an alleged arsonist.

We have years of courtroom and trial experience under our belt and an aggressive defense team that can provide top legal representation.

Is it Possible to Have Arson Charges Reduced or Dismissed?

Yes. An experienced defense lawyer can build a robust legal defense that can help mitigate and reduce the charges or even get the case dismissed entirely.

This can be done through:

Negotiating a Plea Deal

If the evidence presented against you is overwhelming and getting a dismissal seems unlikely, your lawyer can negotiate a favorable plea deal that reduces the charges or seek to get an alternative sentencing option, such as probation or diversion programs.

Presenting Strong Legal Defenses

A robust defense will involve discrediting the prosecution’s evidence and ascertaining reasonable doubt. Your attorney can call upon expert witnesses to dispute the reliability of the evidence presented against you, which weakens their case and improves your chances of dismissal.

Present Lack of Motive or an Alibi

Having a credible alibi proving you were in a different location at the time of arson can bolster the chances of dismissal. Corroborating evidence of your alibi can include surveillance footage, witness statements, or receipts.

Your lawyer can also show you didn’t have a motive to set a fire, which will cast doubt on your involvement and warrant a dismissal.

Why Choose JJWLS for Your Arson Defense?

If arson charges have been brought against you in Aiken, South Carolina, seeking specialized arson defense from a seasoned criminal defense lawyer is crucial. An arson conviction can lead to considerable jail time and fines and will likely see you registered as a convicted felon.

The law offices of Johnson, Johnson, Whittle, Lancer and Staggs in Aiken can provide aggressive representation that helps you avoid serious consequences.

Our firm has the expertise and in-depth knowledge to handle arson cases and can help protect your rights during the legal proceedings.

Our experienced criminal defense lawyers at JJWLS are conversant with South Carolina arson laws, familiar with the legal nuances of arson charges, and equipped with the necessary skills to build defense strategies applicable to your specific circumstances.

Our lawyers will use the most effective defense that assists you in avoiding possible prison time, criminal record, and conviction.

Our defense attorneys understand that every arson case is unique, which is why we take a client-centered approach and review the unique circumstances surrounding your case.

Our attorneys provide tailored attention and support for alleged arsonists throughout the legal proceedings. We will scrutinize the evidence against you, contest the prosecution’s case, and ensure your rights and interests are protected all through.

Enlist Experienced Aiken Arson Lawyers Today!

The criminal defense team at JJWLS is empathetic with your situation and knows that if you are facing arson charges in Aiken, SC, your life, your family, and your freedom are on the line.

Our legal team will use innovative tactics and fight fearlessly to defend you from getting convicted of a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree felony. We believe in open communication and collaboration and will keep you in the loop from the start.

All communication with our defense lawyers is strictly confidential.

If you are facing arson charges in Aiken, SC, please don’t hesitate to contact JJWLS at (803) 649-5338 or fill out our online form to schedule a no-cost initial consultation today.