Chicago Arson Lawyer
In Illinois, intent, or the doing something knowingly, is a critical component of arson. Unfortunately, police have been known to make unfounded accusations after an accidental fire or explosion destroys another person’s property. If you have been arrested for this type of property crime, you may feel as if you are being treated unfairly. You may also be worried about the possibility of facing fines and years in prison.
Chicago arson lawyer Michael O’Meara has over two decades of courtroom experience. He can use his familiarity with the justice system to present your side of the story in a positive light.
To find out how you can get your charges reduced or eliminated, call 312-909-0706 for a free consultation.
What is Arson in Illinois?
As a criminal offense, arson is the act of knowingly damaging or destroying another person’s property through the use of fire or explosives. When you imagine arson, you may think of burning someone’s house down. While this would qualify, both real and personal property are covered by this crime. According to state law, you can be charged with arson after lighting a couch on fire, or after blowing up a friend’s car. The only stipulation is that the object must be valued at more than $150.
Destroying property that you have partial ownership of is also considered arson. For example, it would be a crime to destroy a vacation home that is owned by you and your spouse. There are many variations of this crime, several of which have penalties that differ from typical acts of destruction. While not considered aggravated arson, doing the following can result in an elevated sentence:
- Arson Committed in a Place of Worship: When a church, mosque, or any other religious structure is damaged or destroyed by arson, harsh consequences can result. This is because these structures are often occupied by large numbers of people.
- Residential Arson: In order to be charged with residential arson, you must affect a building that is used as another person’s dwelling. As is the case with arson in a place of worship, this crime is treated more seriously because it has the potential to cause serious injury or death.
Criminal and Collateral Consequences of Arson
Due to the violent and dangerous nature of the crime, arson is always treated as a felony. In most cases, it is labeled as a Class 2 felony. However, in some situations, such as those involving a place of worship or a residence, the charge can be elevated to a more serious Class 1 Felony; this classification carries much harsher penalties. Common penalties for arson in the state of Illinois include, but are not limited to:
- Arson (Class 2 Felony): A fine of up to $25,000 and between three and seven years in prison
- Arson (Class 1 Felony): A fine of up to $25,000 and between four and 15 years in prison
While criminal penalties can have a dramatic impact on your life, you will also have to face unexpected collateral consequences once you are released from prison. According to The Council of State Governments (CSG), those who have been convicted of a felony are unable to engage in certain financial transactions. Obtaining a mortgage may be impossible, and even simple loans may be out of reach. You might also find that your employment opportunities are limited. For example, those with a felony conviction are unable to work for a school district for seven years after being released from incarceration.
Defending Your Rights in Court
Being charged with any crime can be a terrifying experience. Between the trauma of being arrested and the stress associated with a criminal trial, it can feel as if there is no hope of regaining your freedom. However, with the help of a skilled lawyer, it may be possible to get your charges thrown out in court. In arson cases, one of the most effective legal defenses is proving that you did not intend to damage or destroy another person’s property.
It might also be the case that you were falsely accused of arson. In many instances, both police and prosecutors fail to rule out alternative causes of a fire or explosion. It is possible, for example, that the fire in question was caused by faulty wiring, or by a person other than yourself. This can be proven by asking your lawyer to launch an independent, full-scale investigation.
Contact Michael O’Meara Today
It is never too late to obtain legal representation, even if your criminal trial has already begun. Our Chicago arson attorneys at O’Meara Law are dedicated to helping people fight false accusations. We will work tirelessly to ensure that you are not taken advantage of in court.
If you would like to discuss your case, or if you have any questions, call 312-909-0706 today.