A man is being charged with two counts of arson after setting ablaze two rental properties. The properties are owned by Governor McMaster, though authorities do not believe his office was motive for the crime. The fires caused approximately $450,000 in damage and forced the evacuation of numerous residents. There were no reported injuries or deaths.
If you have been charged with a crime of this nature, you should reach out to our experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorneys right away for advice on what steps to take in your case.
Arson Charges in South Carolina
Under South Carolina law, a fire or explosion can be charged as arson if the perpetrator intentionally and maliciously:
- Causes an explosion;
- Sets fire to or otherwise causes property to burn; or
- Aids in causing the explosion or burning of property.
These laws are written to include burning of any building or vehicle, including planes and boats, as well as personal property. Although arson is typically thought of as causing damage to property belonging to others, the charge can also be laid even if you were burning your own property in some cases. These cases are primarily tied to suspected insurance fraud. It is also important to note that South Carolina limits burning of personal property, so be certain to check local and state laws before burning trash or other property.
Once a fire or explosion is determined to be arson, authorities will have to specify the degree of arson with which to charge you. In South Carolina, there are three degrees of arson. Which one you are charged with will depend upon the degree of harm or damage caused by the fire. First-degree arson can only be charged if the fire or explosion resulted in the death of a person. Second-degree arson, however, only requires the serious bodily injury of a person as a direct or indirect result of the fire or explosion. Third-degree arson is the least serious charge, which can include less serious bodily injury to a victim or simple property damage.
Penalties for Arson
Arson is a felony charge in South Carolina no matter how severe the injuries or damages, which means that the penalties can be very severe. However, sentencing will vary depending on the degree you are charged with. The law lays out the following minimum and maximum sentences for each arson charge:
- First degree – a minimum of 30 years in prison
- Second degree – a minimum of three years, a maximum of 25 years in prison
- Third degree – a maximum of 15 years in prison
Once convicted, the judge will be required to utilize these guidelines in your sentencing. Within the ranges allowed by law, your prison sentence will be impacted by the amount of damage done, the severity of injury to any victims, and your defense attorney’s strategy. In general, the greater the damage, the longer the sentence, though factors such as remorse and motive may influence the sentence as well.
Contact an Attorney
If you have been charged with arson, do not speak with authorities until you have contacted the attorneys at David Aylor Law Offices. We will discuss defense strategies with you and develop the best possible defense strategies for your situation.