Birmingham criminal defense lawyers understand that when the individual accused of a crime is an authority figure, such as a police officer, judgments tend to be more harsh.
That makes investment in a skilled attorney all the more important.
In a case involving a police officer accused of committing arson in Birmingham and Warrior, having a solid defense is going to be critical – not only to maintain his job (or preserve any hope of obtaining another in his field), but also his freedom.
The Birmingham News is reporting that the 25-year-old officer has been charged with second-degree arson for allegedly starting a house fire on 29th Street, plus charges of second-degree arson, attempted second-degree arson and criminal mischief for at least two other house fires.
There are as many as a dozen suspicious blazes that authorities may try to pin on this officer.
It's not clear what authorities believe this officer's motivation was.
Second-degree arson is addressed in Alabama Criminal Code 13A-7-42. What that statute says is that you can be found guilty of arson if he or she intentionally sets a fire to a building by either starting a fire or maintaining it or by causing some type of explosion.
It's considered a Class B Felony. That means even though no one is hurt, you could face a minimum of two years in prison and as many as 20. Depending on the amount of property damage, you may be compelled to pay fines of up to $10,000.
If someone is hurt or killed, you could face a charge of first-degree arson, which is a Class A Felony, punishable by a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 99.
The above-mentioned statute lays forth some defense guidelines, however, for how a defendant can avoid conviction under the law.
The first would be if no person other than the individual has any financial interest in the property that has been destroyed. So, for example, if you were to burn a vehicle or home, you would have to prove that you owned that property outright.
Another defense would be if your sole intent was to destroy or damage it for a lawful or proper purpose. So in other words, you weren't trying to commit insurance fraud, cover up another crime or anything of that nature.
In these situations, the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove his or her intent.
Other possible defenses are that the fire was accidental or that it wasn't actually you who set the fire.
For example, if you caused the fire after falling asleep with a cigarette in your hand, you can't be found guilty under this statute. Or, perhaps you were not responsible at all, and authorities have accused the wrong individual.
In this case, an attorney for the officer has said that there is more evidence that has not been made public that could prove favorable to his client.
The suspect was freed on more than $300,000 bond in one case, only to be held in Jefferson County on a $150,000 bond in that case.
If you have been arrested, contact Birmingham Criminal Defense Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.