According to Florida Statute 806.01, the crime of arson is one of the most serious criminal offenses under the Florida penal code. Arson is defined as the deliberate destruction or damage of property using fire or explosion. In many cases, fire insurance companies will allege arson or insurance fraud to avoid paying out a fire damage claim. Arson is one of those allegations that necessitate a speedy investigation to protect your legal rights and help you defend yourself from the life long consequences that follow a felony conviction.
When an individual is arrested on an arson offense, the actions alleged against the defendant will determine if the defendant will be facing a first or second-degree felony. Regardless of the circumstances, if you or a member of your family is charged with a crime, especially a crime alleging arson, it is essential that you speak with a criminal defense attorney at Musca Law. Our firm can explain the process, your legal rights, and our attorneys have the experience your case needs and deserves.
Allegations of Insurance Fraud in Florida
At Musca Law, our Arson Insurance Fraud Defense Lawyers have represented many people who are accused of insurance fraud. Typically, insurance fraud allegations are asserted when an individual is applying for insurance, while an individual has a policy, or when an individual is making a claim. Either state or federal prosecutors may pursue insurance a fraud case.
The following are a few examples of insurance fraud:
- Arson for profit.
- Intentional destruction of property.
- Faking or staging an accident.
- False injury or death claims.
Insurance companies are aggressive when they suspect for-profit arson crimes have been committed. Insurance companies are quick to allege criminal charges, and in almost every case, insurance companies will also pursue a civil lawsuit under the RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.
After a policyholder files a fire damage insurance claim, the policy holder's insurance company will conduct a fire investigation to determine the validity of a fire insurance claim. If the insurance company decides to allege arson insurance fraud, the policyholder could be subject to serious criminal liability. Florida § 806.01 stated that "any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes a structure to be damaged is guilty of arson." If you have been denied your insurance claim, and you are being questioned by law enforcement, it is essential that you call Musca Law and speak with one of our experienced arson insurance fraud attorneys. There will not be a lot of time, and your attorney needs to secure important evidence, review police reports and pictures, interview witnesses, and determine if an arson expert should be brought into your case to defend you.
Arson Penalties and Punishments Under Florida Law
Arson is a felony class of criminal offense in the State of Florida. Like most other criminal offenses, law enforcement will look for additional criminal charges to pursue. When an individual is charged with an arson offense, he or she may be charged with additional crimes such as:
- Burning to defraud an insurer
- Organized scheme to defraud.
- Insurance fraud.
- Filing a false insurance claim to defraud an insurer.
Capital Felony / Life Felony Arson
If someone dies as a result of the fire or explosion, the accused could be charged with a capital felony or a life felony. Meaning the accused, if convicted, could face either life imprisonment or the death penalty.
First-degree Felony Arson
In the State of Florida, first-degree felony arson is a crime where the accused caused damage to a home, dwelling, or structure during the usual hours of occupancy or when people are typically present inside the structure. Also, the defendant must have known or the defendant had reasonable grounds to think the structure was being occupied at least one other person. A first-degree arson conviction is punishable with up to 30-years in prison and up to $10,000 fines.
Second-degree Felony Arson
Second-degree arson occurs when an individual intentionally and willfully damages a structure using a fire or explosion. Florida statutes define a structure as any building, any real property, any enclosed area that has a roof over the area, any vehicle, any tent or other portable building, any vessel, aircraft, or watercraft. The punishments for an arson conviction are severe and are subject to the cost of the damage caused by a fire or explosion. The penalties become upgraded in cases where the structure is occupied at the time of the offense. If convicted, the defendant may receive up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to to $10,000. The penalties and charges will increase in severity if another person is injured or killed due to the intentionally set fire or explosion.
Third-degree Felony Burning to Defraud an Insurer
The criminal offense of "Burning to Defraud an Insurer" happens when a person intentionally sets fire to an insured object to file an insurance claim and recover financial compensation from the insurer. Burning to defraud is a felony in the third degree and is punishable with up to five (5) years in prison. If the defendant is convicted, the severity of the punishment will depend upon the amount of damage.
Third-degree Felony Criminal Mischief
If someone is charged with intentionally damaging another person's property, the accused could be charged with felony criminal mischief. Acts of vandalism, such as graffiti, are typically charged as criminal mischief offenses. If the property damage surpasses $1,000 in repairs, the accused will be charged with a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable with up to five years in a Florida state prison.
First-degree Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief
If the cost of the damage falls below $1,000 but is more than $200, the accused will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. First-degree misdemeanors are punishable with up to a year in jail.
Second-degree Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief
In cases where the property damage is less than $200, the defendant will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable with up to 60 days in jail.
Third-degree Felony Criminal Mischief Against a Place of Worship
If an individual is arrested for perpetrating criminal mischief against a place of worship, such as a synagogue, church, or mosque, the defendant will be facing a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable with up to five years in a Florida prison. There is a possibility that the prosecution may upgrade the charges for perpetrating a hate crime. If a hate crime charge is added, the defendant will face much more severe penalties if convicted.
Accused of Arson Insurance Fraud? Musca Law Will Fight to Clear Your Name
No matter the facts or circumstances of your arson insurance fraud case, it is vital that you discuss your legal options with one of our attorneys as soon as possible. At Musca Law, we offer a no obligation, free consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us 24/7 at (888) 484-5057.