Arson is both a crime under Washington State law and the federal criminal laws of the U.S. People commit the offense when they damage or destroy certain property by means of a fire or an explosive. Arson can lead to felony charges punishable by years in federal prison. If you or a loved one is facing a federal arson charge, or state charges for that matter, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney now for assistance.

How Does Federal Law Define “Arson”?

18 U.S.C. 844i is the federal statute that sets forth the crime of arson. People commit this offense when they:

  1. damage or destroy property used in interstate or foreign commerce, and
  2. do so by means of a fire or an explosive.

For purposes of this law, note that:

  • “Interstate Commerce” means commerce or travel between the states, territories, and possessions of the United States.
  • “Foreign commerce” means commerce or travel between any part of the United States and any place outside the United States.

What are the Penalties?

Arson under federal law is a felony offense (as opposed to a misdemeanor). The crime is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

If a person injured someone else in the commission of the offense, the crime is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 40 years.

Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?

Fortunately, people charged with arson can contest it with a legal defense. A common defense is for a defendant to show that he/she did not actually damage or destroy any property. Or, if there was damage, the property was not used in “interstate or foreign commerce.”

People accused of this offense can also challenge an accusation by showing that federal authorities violated one of their constitutional rights. For example, maybe the authorities arrested a defendant without probable cause or coerced a confession. In these cases, a judge can dismiss or reduce any criminal charges because of the violation.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge an arson charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on federal criminal charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in arson matters. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!