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What are the consequences for a Connecticut arson conviction?

Criminal charges are often based on a Connecticut defendant's alleged intent. The most serious charges involve deliberate actions. Less severe punishments are associated with reckless behavior.

Arson is a property crime. In all cases, arson involves setting off a fire or explosion on purpose. Intentions for taking this action can play heavily into what level of arson charges are filed and which punishments are meted out in the event of a conviction.

Under Connecticut law, first-degree arson is a Class A felony, punishable by a prison term of 10 to 25 years with a fine up to $25,000. A defendant must have caused a damaging or destructive fire or explosion under certain circumstances to be convicted.

The charge is applicable when the targeted building was occupied or the defendant believed people were in the structure. The category includes any direct or indirect injury to a person or firefighter or peace officer endangerment. The most severe arson charge may involve defendants who commit fraud by causing fires or explosions to reap insurance policy benefits.

Arson charges may apply to the willful or reckless burning of structures other than buildings, like boats. Second- and third-degree arson charges are also felonies, punishable by prison terms of one to 20 years and one to 10 years, respectively. The maximum fines are $15,000 for second-degree arson and $10,000 for third-degree arson.

Fire investigations may take a great deal of time, depending on how long it takes authorities to figure out where the destruction originated and how the fire or explosion occurred. Consequently, a person may not be charged with arson for several months or even longer. It's advisable for people who suspect they might be charged with a crime to seek legal counsel before authorities make an arrest.

Criminal defense attorneys may be able to help a client avoid any charges or negotiate significantly reduced charges, like reckless burning.

Source: Connecticut General Assembly, "Penal Code: Offenses" accessed Mar. 13, 2015

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