Fires cause numerous fatalities, injuries and property damage every year in New Jersey. For this reason, law enforcement treats the crime of arson very seriously. There are numerous causes of fires, with some being accidental and some being more malicious. Can you be charged with a criminal offense for causing an accidental fire?
New Jersey arson laws
The law relating to arson in New Jersey is outlined in N.J.S.2C:17-1. The crime is separated into aggravated arson and arson. The former is considered a much more serious offense.
What is aggravated arson?
Aggravated arson occurs when an individual has caused a fire and knowingly placed another person in danger of death or bodily injury. The crime also occurs if an individual has caused a fire with the intention of damaging or destroying another person’s property. If an individual is physically harmed by the fire, this needn’t be intentional. The person who caused the fire must only have recklessly endangered the safety of another person.
What is arson?
Arson is charged in the third degree and is also taken very seriously by the courts. The key distinction between arson and aggravated arson is that the individual who caused the fire doesn't have to knowingly place a person or structure in danger. It is enough to be charged with arson if the accused has simply been reckless in their actions. It is possible that you could be charged with arson if a fire that you caused has damaged property or caused bodily harm to an individual even accidentally. The key issue will be whether or not you were reckless in your actions. If you’re facing charges and don’t feel that you displayed intent or recklessness, seeking legal guidance will help you to build a suitable defense strategy.