What is Arson?
Arson is the act of intentionally, or recklessly, causing a fire or explosion that damages property. There are a handful of different Arson offences in the Criminal Code of Canada. Each offence varies slightly depending on whether or not people were endangered.
Arson - Disregard for Human Life.
This is the most severe form of Arson. There are two examples of disregarding human life. Firstly: when a person intentionally, or recklessly, causes a fire or explosion all while knowing that the targeted property is inhabited or occupied. If the person knows that the fire or explosion could endanger another person, it does not matter if anyone was actually harmed. Secondly: even if the person did not know that people were inhabiting or occupying the targeted property, the offence is complete by the mere fact that the fire or explosion did indeed cause bodily hard to another person.
Arson - Damage to Property
It is not a criminal offence to burn down your own property, provided that you are the sole owner of the property, and provided that no other person, or the property of another person, was endangered by the fire. With that said, it is a crime to intentionally, or recklessly, cause a fire or explosion that damages any property that you do not solely own. Similarly, it is a crime to intentionally, or recklessly, cause a fire or explosion that endangers another person or their property.
Arson - for a Fraudulent Purpose.
It is a crime to cause a fire or explosion for the purpose of defrauding another person or insurance company. See Fraud.
Arson - Negligence.
Even if you initially cause a lawful fire or explosion, it is a crime if you do not take reasonable steps to keep the fire or explosion under control. Any fire or explosion, even if it is was not reckless or dangerous when it was caused, may be considered a crime if it results in bodily harm or damage to another person’s property. The question hinges on whether or not you were careful in trying to prevent or control the fire or explosion.
The courts presume that a person is acting negligent if they start a fire in contravention to any local fire band that is in place by the province or municipality.
Arson - Conviction and Sentencing
All of the Arson offences are indictable, and the Crown in some circumstances may seek a life sentence. Arson is considered a very serious charge.
I’ve been charged with Arson
Tell the police that you want to speak with a lawyer, and from there on out, do not say a word to the police. It is your right and it is important!
As Your Defence Counsel
I will go to court on your behalf, review the evidence, and give you sound legal advice. I am here to guide you through a trial or a plea resolution. Arson charges are a very technical investigation, with scientific evidence and expert witnesses. Much depends are successfully arguing whether the fire was intentional. You want someone with the legal knowledge and experience to defend against an Arson charge.
You may qualify for Legal Aid: See Legal Aid Ontario Information.
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