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New Jersey Arson Laws: How Serious is the Crime?

Earlier this year in South Hackensack, New Jersey, 45-year-old Jose A. Lopez allegedly set fire to a truck that belonged to a party company near his place of employment. Surveillance footage was used to place Lopez near the truck at the time of the blaze. According to jail records, Lopez was arrested on second-degree aggravated arson charges and bail was set at $60,000.

In the case of Mr. Lopez nobody was injured, but in June of this year, a three-alarm fire broke out in Oakland, New Jersey. Officials are investigating this fire as a possible arson related incident. One person suffered third degree burns – the most severe type of burn.

In the state of New Jersey, Title 2C:17-1 of the state’s penal code dictates the law on arson. Depending on the circumstances, arson can be considered aggravated and raised from a crime of the lower third and fourth degree offenses to a crime of the second degree. Even failing to report a forest fire that you did not start can be considered arson. In extreme cases, the act of arson will be considered a first-degree offense. Below are a few examples of the more common classifications of arson.

Arson in the Third Degree

A third degree crime in the State of New Jersey carries with it a possible three to five years in prison if convicted. Arson in the third degree requires that you purposely start a fire or cause an explosion either on your own property or someone else’s property that recklessly places people, structures or forests in danger. Additionally, if you start a fire or cause an explosion with the intent of collecting insurances monies or to circumvent governmental zoning type regulations, then you can be charged with arson in the third degree.

Arson in the Second Degree

If you are convicted of a second degree crime in New Jersey, you could be facing five to ten years behind bars. Whereas the key component of basic arson is recklessness, aggravated arson, as a second degree offense, requires that the act be committed with purpose. Again, the fire or explosion can occur on the actor’s own property or on another’s property.

Arson in the First Degree

First degree offenses are serious crimes in New Jersey and if you are convicted of arson in the first degree, you could very well be sentenced to ten to twenty years in prison. Generally, a first degree arson charge will result if you’ve directly or indirectly accepted some benefit, monetary or otherwise, for an act of arson.

Call Today if You Have Been Charged with Arson

As we’ve discussed, there are a multitude of actions that can result in an arson charge ranging from the seemingly innocent to the very violent. Although we’ve outlined a few of the more common charges, the law is deeply complex and if you are facing arson charges, it is imperative that you obtain competent legal counsel. Phlllip J. Murphy, attorney at law, has over 25 years of experience defending a wide range of crimes in Bergen County, including violent crimes. Call today for a free consultation of your case.

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