Arson is a very serious crime in New Jersey, governed by N.J.S.A 2C:17-1. It ranges from a third to a first degree offense which can lead to jail time and heavy fines. If you are facing this charge do not hesitate to seek legal counsel. LS&P Lawyers has an experienced team of criminal lawyers who represent people all over New Jersey.
Arson is divided into two forms: aggravated arson and simple arson. A person is guilty of aggravated arson if he starts a fire or explosion which purposely places another in danger of death or bodily injury (pain, physical harm); purposely destroys a building of another; purposely destroys a building in order to collect insurance which recklessly puts another in danger of death or serious bodily injury; purposely destroys a building to exempt it from any State, county, or local law, regulation, or ordinance which recklessly puts another in danger of death or serious bodily injury; or purposely attempts to destroy or damage a forest. This is a second degree offense, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.
A person is guilty of simple arson if he starts a fire or explosion which recklessly places another in danger of death or bodily injury; recklessly places a building of another in danger of damage or destruction; purposely destroys a building with the purpose of collecting insurance money; purposely destroys a building to exempt it from any State, county, or local law, regulation, or ordinance; or recklessly places a forest in danger of damage or destruction. This is a third degree crime, punishable by 3 to 5 years and up to $15,000 in fines.
The major difference between aggravated and simple arson is the intent of the defendant. If he purposely tried to burn down a building with the intent of hurting someone or destroying that building, aggravated arson is committed. If the injuries of the victim or destruction of the building occurs because of reckless behavior, simple arson is committed.
However, it is possible to commit a more severe arson offense. The act of paying or accepting payment to commit arson is considered a first degree offense, even if the arson did not actually occur. Similarly, committing any form of arson on a place of worship constitutes a first degree offense. A first degree offense is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000. If the target is a place of worship, a minimum term of 15 years in prison will be imposed with no parole. If a person committed aggravated arson against a health care facility, a term of imprisonment must also be imposed.
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