Defending Arson in Texas

Many Texans will remember the 2008 fire that nearly destroyed the Governor’s mansion in Austin. An arsonist purportedly started that fire with a Molotov cocktail, but notwithstanding surveillance video and other evidence, the perpetrator has not yet been apprehended. This is consistent with national statistics, which show that only one of five arson cases go to completion and conviction.

Regardless of the challenges of apprehending arsonists, if facts show that a fire occurred during the commission of a crime, Texas prosecutors will not hesitate to bring arson charges in addition to indictments for property damage or personal injury. The attorneys at the Peveto Law Office in Plano represent individuals who have been charged with arson. We use all legal means necessary to exonerate our clients no matter what evidence prosecutors claim to have.

Felony Arson Charges in Texas

A Texas arson charge will be more serious if the defendant started a fire with an intent to damage a home or some other property or if the fire was started in such a reckless manner that it threatened the life or bodily safety of other persons.

Is arson a felony?

Arson is a felony crime under Section 28.01 of the Texas Penal Code:

  • First Degree Arson is a fire that the defendant started intentionally and that was intended to or did resulted in injury, death, or property damage of more than $300,000 in value;
  • Second Degree Arson is an intentional fire that causes property damage with a value of $150,000 to $300,000;
  • Third Degree Arson is a fire that was started recklessly, for example, during manufacture of a controlled substance, and that results in bodily injury or death.
  • State Jail Felony Arson is a fire that is started recklessly during the manufacture of a controlled substance and that results in property damage.

Arson punishment varies with the degree of the felony charge. A person convicted of state jail felony arson can be imprisoned for 180 days to two years, whereas a defendant convicted of first degree arson can face a sentence of life imprisonment. Persons convicted of arson may also face fines of up to $10,000.

Defense of Texas Arson Charges

Recent developments in Texas arson cases have raised questions over the validity of scientific methods and forensic evidence that prosecutors have previously used to gain arson convictions. If you have been charged with an arson crime, you should verify that your defense attorney understands these developments and has the expertise to challenge the validity of any expert and other forensic analysis that a prosecutor might use against you.

Further, a prosecutor might attempt to introduce a defendant’s perceived motive for starting a fire, including, for example, a defendant’s attempt to collect insurance or to cover up other activity. The fact that an individual who is accused of arson may have had a good reason to start a fire is not, in itself, sufficient evidence for an arson conviction.

As with all felony charges, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant who is indicted for arson did, in fact, perform an intentional act that started a fire or that caused an explosion. Forensic evidence that a fire was started intentionally and the alleged motive of an accused individual are not enough to support an arson conviction. The accused party’s defense attorney should challenge witnesses and, where possible, establish exculpatory alibis to show that a defendant could not have committed an arson crime.

What to Do if You Are Facing Arson Charges in Texas

Many criminal defendants make the mistake of foregoing an attorney’s presence and speaking directly with detective and fire investigators when they are charged with arson. A defendant’s cooperation during an investigation might have some limited benefit, but all statements made to police and investigators will become part of a record that a prosecutor will use to win a conviction.

Before you agree to answer any questions or to sign any written statements, regardless of whether you are charged with arson or any other felony, you should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney who will verify that your rights are protected and that investigators are not forcing you to make any statements that go against your interests. You have no obligation to speak with investigators when you are facing arson charges in Texas, regardless of what an investigator might tell you.

Call Attorney Andrew Peveto for Experienced Defense Against Texas Arson Charges

Arson is a serious felony crime. An arson conviction can lead to long prison sentences and financial penalties. Texas property crime lawyer Andrew Peveto in Plano knows the tricks and techniques that Texas prosecutors use to advance arson charges and he counters those tricks with experienced and professional legal defenses.

If you have been indicted for arson or any other felony crime in Plano, Dallas, or elsewhere in northern Texas, please call us to consult with one of our attorneys before you speak with an investigator or prosecutor. We will confirm that your rights are fully preserved, and we will provide the best defense available against any charges you are facing.

Additional Resources:

  1. kxan.com: Arson of the Governor’s Mansion is the “Greatest Unsolved Crime”. https://www.kxan.com/news/texas/arson-of-the-governor-s-mansion-is-the-greatest-unsolved-crime-/1227338448
  2. fireengineering.com: Evidence Necessary to Convict for Arson. https://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-95/issue-7/features/evidence-necessary-to-convict-for-arson.html
  3. ataconarson.org: Texas Advisory Council on Arson Newsletter 2018: http://www.ataconarson.org/newsletter.html
  4. nbcnews.com: Old Arson Cases Reviewed in Texas: Is Douglas Boyington an Innocent Man? https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/old-arson-cases-reviewed-texas-douglas-boyington-innocent-man-flna2D11627565