Florida Property Crimes Attorneys
Defending Against Property Crimes and Burning to Defraud the Insurer Charges
Under Florida law, property crimes are usually intentional acts that cause loss of or damage to another person’s property. These crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies and can carry serious penalties. The lawyers at Musca Law have decades of experience defending people against property crimes charges, and we understand the complexities often involved in these cases. Contact our office today to speak to one of our dedicated attorneys about the circumstances of your case.
Types of Property Crimes in Florida
Florida recognizes several types of property crimes. The charges filed in an individual case will depend on the nature of the crime and the valuation of the property involved in the crime. Whether violence was involved in the commission of the crime will also influence the charges filed and the consequences of a conviction.
Types of property crimes in Florida include the following:
- Theft, including shoplifting, grand theft, petit theft, and larceny
- Burglary, including of a vehicle or commercial or residential structure
- Criminal mischief
- Burning to defraud the insurer
Burning to Defraud the Insurer
If you have been charged with one of the above crimes, contact Musca Law today. Our lawyers will review the charges and help you understand the potential penalties involved. We know that these charges can have tremendous effects on people’s lives, and we work to build the best possible defense for each of our clients. Our lawyers are experienced in representing persons accused of arson and burning to defraud an insurance company. These are unique crimes for several reasons, one of which is that they can involve someone’s own property, rather than the property of another person. While it is generally not a crime to damage your own personal property, it is a crime in Florida to burn your own real or personal property for the purpose of collecting on an insurance policy.
Florida Statute § 817.233 governs the crime of burning to defraud the insurer. The statute defines this crime as willfully setting fire to or burning an insured building, structure, or other piece of property with the intent to defraud the insurer. “Willfully,” under the statute, means knowingly and intentionally.
A person accused of this crime will be charged with a third-degree felony. It is important to note that a person can also be charged with burning to defraud the insurer for attempts to set fire to or to burn a piece of property. If the intent behind the fire is to collect on an insurance policy, the crime can be charged, regardless of whether the fire actually resulted in loss or damage. Additionally, a person can be charged with this crime if he or she counseled, aided, or procured the burning of a piece of property. In other words, the crime does not apply only to the person who physically set the fire.
Typically, the crime of burning to defraud the insurer involves a fabricated story about how a fire started or what caused the fire. Insurance companies pay particularly close attention to claims involving fire loss or fire damage, and they often have special investigative units tasked solely with looking into fire claims. These units will engage in an investigation that usually involves burn pattern analysis and sample testing to pinpoint where the fire originated and whether an accelerant was used to start the fire.
Elements of Burning to Defraud the Insurer
The state must be able to prove the elements of the crime in order to obtain a conviction for burning to defraud the insurer. The elements of this crime are housed within Florida’s jury instruction on burning to defraud the insurer, which closely mirrors Florida Statute § 817.233. Those elements include:
- The defendant attempted to or set fire to or burned the property described in the charges; or the defendant counseled, aided, or procured the burning of the property;
- The property was lawfully owned by the owner described in the charges;
- The property was covered under an insurance policy for loss or damage from a fire; and
- The defendant’s conduct was willful and carried out with the intent to defraud the insurance company or injure the insurance company.
As part of your defense, your attorney will try to attack each element of the state’s case. This can involve conducting an independent investigation, hiring experts, and speaking to any witnesses who might have information about the crime. Burn pattern analysis and fire simulations can often involve junk science that our lawyers know how to dispute. Contact us today to learn how we might be able to help you.
Punishment Associated with Burning to Defraud the Insurer
Under Florida Statute § 775.082, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. The punishment can change if the accused is someone considered to be a habitual felony offender under Florida Statute § 775.084. This includes someone who has been convicted of two or more felonies in Florida or who commits a felony during the course of a prison sentence or period of court-ordered supervision.
A habitual felony offender can also include someone who commits a felony within five years of his or her last felony conviction or within five years of completing a prior sentence. A court can impose a longer prison term on a defendant who is considered a habitual felony offender. Because the consequences are dire, your lawyer will fight against a label of habitual offender.
Contact Musca Law Today to Protect Your Rights!
Musca Law’s Florida property crimes attorneys are prepared to handle complex property crimes cases, including burning to defraud the insurer cases. We offer free and confidential case consultations, during which we will review the facts of your unique case. Contact us today to protect your rights in the face of property crimes charges. We are available to schedule your consultation now when you call (888) 484-5057.