Like most states, New Hampshire’s arson statute divides the crime of arson into degrees which provide a heavier punishment for arson committed under certain circumstances.
In New Hampshire, knowingly starting a fire or causing an explosion that damages property can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The circumstances of the fire or explosion, as understood by the police and the prosecutor, will determine the seriousness of the criminal charge.
In all instances, the crime of arson requires that the person charged start a fire or cause an explosion which damages someone else’s property.
If the property was an historical structure or occupied by people, it could be punishable by 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison.
If the fire was started for the purpose of collecting insurance, or the actual damage exceeds $1000, it could be punished by 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison.
Starting a fire or causing an explosion that damages an occupied or historic structure can be charged as a Class A felony. An occupied structure, as defined by the State of New Hampshire, could be vacant at the time of the fire or explosion.
If the fire or explosion was started for the purpose of collecting insurance money, the property damaged is real estate, the damage to the property is more than $1000, or a person or separate occupied structure are placed in danger by the damage, the act of arson can be charged as a Class B felony.
In some instances, causing an explosion or fire on one’s own property could be charged as a felony level offense.
If found guilty of A or B felony level arson, a defendant could be sentenced to serve time in state prison.
A misdemeanor charge of arson is less serious than the charges explained above.
If someone knowingly starts a fire or causes an explosion and is charged with a class A misdemeanor charge of arson, they are facing a maximum of 12 months in the House of Corrections. Arson can also be charged as a class B misdemeanor and in that case not involve any “jail time.”
Often when defending clients charged with arson, our firm will hire an expert witness to examine the cause of the fire or review the Fire Marshall’s investigation.
When possible, we may even have an expert evaluate the scene of the fire itself, before critical evidence is cleaned up or altered.
Unlike many other convictions, you can never annul a class A felony arson conviction, which is classified as a “violent crime.”
A conviction for Arson could result in a Real Estate agent facing disciplinary action by the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission. A conviction for arson could also prohibit a person from entering into certain residential substance use treatment facilities.
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