Arson in Victoria
Arson is an offence whose main component is the dangerous use of fire or explosives.
Fire is unpredictable and capable of causing enormous danger to human life and damage to property. Because of this, the Courts tend to take arson charges very seriously, even those that involve relatively small fires. It is therefore critical that you have a competent criminal defence lawyer to thoroughly review the case against you and ensure you get the best result.
There are 5 different arson offences:
- Setting a fire that causes bodily harm or being reckless as to whether the property is occupied by one or more people
- Setting a fire intentionally or recklessly that causes damage to another person’s property
- Setting a fire on your own property that damages your own property and seriously threatens the health, safety, or property of another person
- Causing damage by fire to property with the intent of committing fraud (e.g. collecting insurance money)
- Letting a fire get out of control and cause bodily harm to another person by being negligent
Bail Conditions for Arson Charges
The police take these offences extremely seriously, and often seek very restrictive release terms at the bail stage. If they believe you were intoxicated when you started the fire, or it was committed at night, you will likely face a strict curfew as a condition to your release. In addition, you will face a ban on possessing anything that can be used to start a fire (matches, lighter, gas, propane, etc.)
Shortly following your release you will likely be directed to attend a docket courtroom in the Victoria Courthouse for the purpose of entering a plea to your charges. Assault charges in Victoria are typically sent to courtroom 101 for all docket appearances like entering pleas, making adjournments, or setting dates for trials, dispositions, or other hearings. At your first appearance, your matter will be set for a plea, but you are not obliged to decide whether you will plead guilty or not guilty until you have had a chance to consult with legal counsel. As such, at your first appearance you are well within your rights to request a two to three week adjournment from the judge so that you can have more time to hire a criminal defence lawyer. Once you have requested your adjournment, contact one of our criminal defence lawyers immediately so that we can begin acting on your behalf and can begin working to quickly resolve your case.
Defending Arson Charge
Large arsons will often cause the police to send in a large team of specialists to determine the cause and reason for the fire. This in turn will create a great deal of complicated expert evidence and police reports. When the stakes are this high, you will need a confident and diligent defence lawyer to interpret those reports and other information in order to identify and target the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
Our thorough review of every document generated by the investigation may focus on the following areas:
- Will the prosecution be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you started the fire or explosion?
- Is there a credible alternative explanation for the cause of the fire?
- Are there any eyewitnesses that saw you do it? Are their statements unreliable or untrustworthy?
- Did anyone else have a motive to start the fire?
- Did you take all necessary safety precautions before starting the fire?
Depending on which type of arson you are charged with, you could face a maximum jail sentence of 10 years, 14 years, or LIFE.
In addition, the Crown will almost certainly ask the Judge to make an order that you pay the victims back for the full amount of damage caused by the fire or explosion. For all but the smallest fires, this can quickly translate into several thousand dollars.
The consequences are too serious to deal with this offence alone. Let our experienced criminal defence lawyers go to work for you in ensuring the best case is made on your behalf in the sentencing court. We may be able to reduce the amount of damage you are obligated to pay for or arrange a plea to less serious charges. In all cases, we will make sure the Judge is told, in an accurate and persuasive way, about your positive qualities and your future prospects for rehabilitation.