Harris County Arson Defense Attorneys
In Texas, arson is charged as a very serious offense because fires or explosions can result in devastating property damage, serious personal injury and even death. Because of these extreme and potential consequences, the Texas government dedicates enormous resources to investigate these crimes. The State Fire Marshal is the chief investigator in charge of the investigation of arson and suspected arson in the State of Texas. By statutory authority (Texas Government Code), the State Fire Marshall commissions law enforcement officers to act as fire and arson investigators under his supervision.
Arson cases are usually very circumstantial in nature because the start of a fire is seldom seen by independent witnesses. When fires are intentionally started, the motives can be to commit insurance fraud, hate crimes, retaliation, destroy evidence or to cover up other crimes, such as homicide. According to the Texas Department of Public safety, juveniles commit about 25 percent of arson crimes. Like a moth to the flame, youthful and curious firebugs are drawn to the primal and destructive nature of fire.
Arson charges are extremely serious. Individuals convicted of arson are usually sentenced to prison and forced to pay steep fines. To have the best chance of avoiding a conviction, it is important to hire an experienced Houston property crimes attorney.
Arson Defense Attorney in Houston
If you are under investigation for arson, it is vitally important to consult a lawyer before speaking to law enforcement or arson investigators.
If have been charged with arson in Harris County or any of the surrounding counties in Southeast Texas, contact James G. Sullivan and Associates for a free, confidential phone consultation at (281) 546-6428. James (Jim) Sullivan is an experienced trial lawyer who defends clients accused of property crimes.
Arson Law in Texas
According to Texas Penal Code Sec. 28.02, a person commits arson if he or she starts a fire (regardless of whether the fire continues after ignition) or causes an explosion with intent to destroy or damage:
In Texas, arson is usually charged as a second degree felony. If the arson caused the bodily injury or death of any person, or if the property intended to be damaged or destroyed was a habitation or place of assembly or worship, the offender can be charged with a first degree felony.
A person can also be charged with arson if he or she recklessly starts a fire or causes an explosion while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance and the fire or explosion damages a building, vehicle, or habitation. This type of arson is usually charged as a state jail felony, however the offender can be charged with a third degree felony if the offense resulted in the death or bodily injury to another.
Controlled Burning Defense
It is a defense to the destruction of damage of any vegetation, fence or structure on open-space land if the fire or explosion was a part of the controlled burning of open-space land.
“Controlled burning” means the burning of unwanted vegetation with the consent of the owner of the property on which the vegetation is located and in such a manner that the fire is controlled and limited to a designated area.
“Open-space land” means real property that is undeveloped for the purpose of human habitation.
Punishment for Arson in Texas
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code lists the felony punishment for arson.
A conviction for a second degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years and a fine up to $10,000.
A conviction for a first degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
A conviction for a state jail felony is punishable by a state jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Definitions of Terms
Texas Penal Code Sec. 28.01 lists the definitions of arson-related terms.
“Habitation” means a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons and includes each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle and each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.
“Building” means any structure or enclosure intended for use or occupation as a habitation or for some purpose of trade, manufacture, ornament, or use.
“Vehicle” includes any device in, on, or by which any person or property is or may be propelled, moved or drawn in the normal course of commerce or transportation.
James G. Sullivan and Associates | Harris County Arson Defense Attorneys
Houston arson defense lawyer James Sullivan will discuss with you the seriousness of your charge and the various effective defense strategies that are best suited for your particular case. Before you make your plea in court, it is important that you consult a property crimes lawyer in Houston, Texas. Houston criminal attorney James Sullivan gets proven results.
James Sullivan graduated the Trial Lawyers College founded by Legendary lawyer Gerry. Sullivan has a proven record of defending people from all walks of life, faiths and countries in courts throughout Texas.
Contact James Sullivan & Associates for a free phone consultation at (281) 546-6428 about your arson charges in Harris County and throughout southeast Texas. Sullivan is appreciative of his clients that take the time to write a review.
I have had epilepsy since 2010. In July 2017 I had a seizure and while in a postictal state following the seizure I lit a gasoline fire on the garage’s concrete floor of a rental house.It was an irrational attempt to defend my wife from a former friend and tenant who was attacking her. During the attack, he accidentally knocked over a gas can that spilled gas.The fire stopped the attack but also spread to the gas can, which my wife immediately threw into the front yard and was extinguished by the police that arrived a few moments later. My wife had called the police a few minutes before because the former friend had threatened to get his gun. He is also a drug user and violent, but his father is a police officer. As a result, even though my wife’s parents witnessed what happened, I was the one arrested by the police and charged with arson after the fire marshal’s office got involved.
Attorney Jim Sullivan was highly recommended to me by an associate that works at a law firm in Houston. I gave Mr. Sullivan a call that day and spoke with his associate Nancy Botts, who took thorough notes on the case, and passed the word onto Jim who then returned my call within hours. We spoke about 45 minutes about my incident and what all took place. He agreed to accept my first degree felony case that day for a very reasonable amount of money. Shortly after that we all met in person for a few hours to discuss the entire story, my medical problem and the erratic behavior that took place. After asking my wife and her parents detailed questions about their observations that day and the next,he believed that my condition played a role in the event. He believed strongly from day one that the charges were wrong and unjust.
Jim always represented himself to be confident in our ability to have my case dismissed from court, long before ever having to go to trial. Jim said that it is exceedingly rare for an epilepsy defense to work, but he was confident he could do it.Hurricane Harvey caused a delay in my case due to the courthouse flooding. Jim Sullivan always represented me in timely, professional, and caring fashion.
He spent immense amounts of time researching epilepsy, learning what it is, the various types of seizure,how it affects a person, along with tons of man hours putting together an incredible defense packet to present to the grand jury. He also asked my neurologist detailed questions about whether a simple partial seizure could explain my erratic behavior, my memory recall two hours later when I was questioned by the police and other pertinent details of the case. The neurologist agreed that a simple partial seizure was entirely plausible and possible, that my behavior would have been non-volitional and agreed to write a letter explaining why.
Once the grand jury read over the lengthy defense packet,the week after Thanksgiving, my case was no billed.Throughout this entire process, I had two brain surgeries and am now seizure free. Jim Sullivan and his practice were amazing and I would highly recommend him to friends,family, and everyone. Lord forbid if I am ever again in a situation that would involve his expertise, I will certainly call Jim Sullivan and seek his counsel before ever trying anyone else. ~Anonymous (Avvo review)