A Washington man has been charged with four counts of second-degree arson after allegedly setting fire to several commercial properties in the Seattle area late last year. The fires, set to a gymnasium, a lumber yard, an Elks lodge, and an office complex, resulted in an estimated $4 million in damages. According to the report, video surveillance cameras captured the suspect at the scene of all four of the fires. The man was already serving time in jail on unrelated charges when police connected him to the fires.
What is the Crime of Arson?
Arson is a serious criminal charge in Washington. To commit arson, a person must knowingly and maliciously set a fire or cause an explosion. Arson is charged in the first or second degree, depending on the specific facts of the case. First-degree arson, a class A felony, is defined by state law as setting fire to a home or building where another person is present that poses a risk of danger to human life, including endangering the lives of firefighters. Second-degree arson is a class B felony and is the setting of a fire to any property, structure, building, car, dock, or piece of land that does not involve posing a risk to human life.
Arson is also charged as an attempt crime. Crimes of attempt occur when a person takes a substantial step towards committing a specific crime but falls short of actually completing the crime. For example, an individual charged with attempted arson may spray gasoline on the side of a home, but then decide not to strike a match that would start the fire. The individual took a substantial step towards committing arson by spraying gasoline on the home but ultimately did not set fire to the dwelling.
What Are The Defenses to Arson Charges?
There are many arguments that a criminal defense attorney can use to fight arson charges, including lack of knowledge and mistaken identity. Fires can easily start by mistake. A dropped cigarette or a stray spark from a lighter can cause flames to engulf a piece of land, especially in dry or windy conditions. In these situations, you may not even know that you started a fire, or that your actions would result in causing a fire until you are charged with the crime. Mistaken identity can also be a defense to arson charges. Grainy surveillance footage, unreliable witnesses, and blurry photographs do not provide sufficient evidence for a first-degree or second-degree arson conviction.
Contact Washington Criminal Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
If you are charged with arson, it's essential to get the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney Steve Karimi, a former King County prosecutor, understands how to effectively defend your rights against criminal charges so that you won't have to pay expensive fines or serve time in jail. Contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi by filling out an online case evaluation form or call us 24 hours a day at 206-660-6200 for a free consultation.