Chicago Federal Arson Criminal Defense Attorney

Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C.

Federal Arson Charges Under 18 USC § 844

Arson, the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property, is taken extremely seriously under federal law. This article provides an exhaustive examination of arson as defined in 18 USC § 844, including its legal definitions, applicable penalties, and the significance of engaging an experienced defense attorney when facing such charges.

Arson is specifically addressed under 18 USC § 844(i), which pertains to the federal crime of damaging or destroying, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce. This broad definition essentially extends federal jurisdiction to nearly all acts of arson due to the inclusive interpretation of what constitutes commerce under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Legal Definitions:

  • Building, Vehicle, or Other Property: This includes any structure or conveyance, but for the application of federal jurisdiction, it must be used in activities affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
  • Interstate or Foreign Commerce: Any business or activity that involves trade, traffic, or transportation crossing state boundaries or involving more than one country.

The implications of these definitions are significant, as they expand the scope of what can be prosecuted as arson under federal law, far beyond what might be covered under state laws.

Penalties for Arson Under 18 USC § 844

Criminal Penalties:

The penalties for arson can be severe, reflecting the potential for significant harm to persons and property:

  • General Arson: Imprisonment for not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, fines, or both.
  • Aggravated Circumstances: If the arson resulted in injury to any person, the imprisonment range increases to not less than 7 years and not more than 40 years. If death results from the arson, it can be prosecuted under 18 USC § 844(d), potentially leading to the death penalty or life imprisonment, depending on the specifics of the case and the jurisdiction.

Restitution and Fines:

In addition to imprisonment, individuals convicted of arson under federal law may also face substantial fines and are often ordered to pay restitution to the victims for the property damage and other losses incurred.

Handling a Federal Arson Charge

If you are charged with or are under investigation for arson under federal law, taking immediate and informed action is crucial:

  1. Do Not Speak to Investigators Without Legal Representation: Given the complexities and potential penalties involved, it is vital to have legal counsel present during any interactions with law enforcement or investigators.
  2. Preserve Evidence and Document Everything: If it’s safe and legal to do so, preserving evidence that may help your defense or documenting interactions related to the incident can be beneficial.

Defense strategies in arson cases may involve challenging the prosecution’s evidence regarding the intent, the cause of the fire, or the connection to interstate commerce. Expert witnesses such as fire investigators, forensic analysts, or materials scientists might be used to counter the government’s claims about how the fire started or whether it was indeed arson.

Facing federal arson charges can be a life-altering event. The choice of legal representation can significantly impact the outcome of the case. An experienced criminal defense attorney with a background in federal offenses will be crucial. They can navigate the complexities of federal law, work with forensic experts, negotiate with federal prosecutors, and represent your interests vigorously in court.

Call Attorney David L. Freidberg For A Free Consultation Today!

Arson under 18 USC § 844 is a serious federal offense with penalties that can include lengthy periods of imprisonment and substantial fines. The broad application of the law, due to its interstate commerce component, means that acts typically prosecuted at the state level can escalate to federal crimes. Understanding your rights and the legal definitions that apply to federal arson is crucial when formulating a defense.

If you or someone you know is facing federal arson charges, or if there is the potential for such charges, it is imperative to seek qualified legal assistance immediately. Contact The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1442 for a free consultation. We offer a free consultation 24/7, providing expert legal defense to clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Will County, and Lake County, Illinois. Let our experience and dedication work for you in navigating these serious charges.

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