First Degree Arson Georgia Lawyer

In Georgia, first-degree arson is a serious crime. It occurs when someone intentionally sets fire to property or uses explosives to damage it. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 16-7-60 outlines the legal framework for first-degree arson.

Definition and Elements

An individual is guilty of first-degree arson if they intentionally inflict or result in damage to:

  1. You are not allowed to enter someone else’s home without permission, whether it is occupied or empty.
  2. Any structure, vehicle, train carriage, boat, or other construction belonging to someone else without permission, if intended for habitation.
  3. Any covered property (residence, structure, automobile, etc.) without the agreement of both the insurance company and the policyholder.
  4. Any property with the intent to defraud a spouse or co-owner.
  5. Any property in situations where it is reasonably predictable that human life could be at risk.

Additionally, authorities can also charge first-degree arson if the perpetrator commits the act while committing another felony.

Arson in the First Degree Penalties

The penalties for first-degree arson in Georgia are severe and include:

  • Imprisonment: A prison term ranging from a minimum of one year to a maximum of 20 years.
  • Fines: Punished by a fine of up to $50,000.
  • Felony Record: A conviction results in a felony record, which can have long-term consequences such as difficulty in securing employment, obtaining credit, buying a home, and loss of voting rights.

Legal Considerations

To secure a conviction for first-degree arson, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the fire was of incendiary origin and that the accused knowingly caused the fire. The intent and knowledge of the accused are critical elements that must be established.

Popular Defense Strategies

Common defenses against first-degree arson charges include:

  • Lack of Intent: Demonstrating that the fire was accidental and not set intentionally.
  • Consent: Showing that the fire was set with the consent of both the insurer and the insured.
  • Lack of Knowledge: Proving that the accused did not knowingly cause the fire.

First-degree arson in Georgia is a grave offense with stringent penalties. It is critical for anyone facing such charges to seek experienced legal representation to navigate the complexities of the law and mount a robust defense.

The O.C.G.A. § 16-7-60 classifies arson into three levels, each having distinct requirements and punishments.

Being convicted of first-degree arson in Georgia has serious long-term consequences that go beyond just fines and jail time. Here are the key long-term impacts:

1. Felony Record

A first-degree arson conviction results in a felony record, which can have pervasive and lasting effects on various aspects of life. This criminal record is permanent and can be accessed by potential employers, landlords, and others conducting background checks.

2. Employment Challenges

Individuals with a felony conviction often face significant difficulties in securing employment. Many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record, particularly for serious offenses like arson. This can lead to prolonged periods of unemployment or underemployment.

3. Loss of Voting Rights

In Georgia, a felony conviction results in the loss of voting rights. This disenfranchisement continues until the individual has completed their sentence, including any probation or parole.

4. Difficulty Obtaining Credit

A felony conviction can adversely affect an individual’s creditworthiness. Financial institutions may view those with a criminal record as higher-risk borrowers, making it more challenging to obtain loans, credit cards, or mortgages.

5. Housing Issues

Securing housing can be problematic for individuals with a felony record. Landlords often conduct background checks and may refuse to rent to someone with a serious criminal conviction. This can limit housing options and lead to instability.

6. Social Shame

A felony conviction carries a significant social stigma. This can affect personal relationships and social standing within the community. The stigma associated with being a convicted felon can lead to isolation and difficulties in social integration.

7. Professional Licenses

Certain professional licenses may be revoked or become unattainable for individuals with a felony conviction. This can limit career opportunities in fields that require licensure, such as law, medicine, and education.

8. Firearm Ownership

Federal and state laws prohibit convicted felons from owning or possessing firearms. This restriction is a significant limitation for those who may have previously owned firearms or wish to do so in the future.


The long-term consequences of a first-degree arson conviction in Georgia are extensive and can significantly impact various aspects of an individual’s life. These consequences underscore the importance of seeking experienced legal representation to navigate the complexities of the legal system and potentially mitigate the severity of the penalties.

The presence of insurance can significantly affect arson charges in Georgia, particularly in cases where the arson is committed with the intent to defraud the insurer. Here are the key ways in which insurance impacts arson charges:

1. Intent to Defraud

One of the primary ways insurance affects arson charges is through the intent to defraud the insurer. If a person sets fire to their property with the intention of collecting insurance money, this constitutes a specific type of arson known as “arson for profit.” This is explicitly covered under Georgia law and is considered a serious offense.

2. Legal Provisions and Penalties

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-7-60, first-degree arson includes setting fire to any insured property with the intent to defraud the insurer. The penalties for first-degree arson are severe, including imprisonment for one to twenty years and fines up to $50,000.

3. Insurance Fraud

Arson committed to defraud an insurance company is also prosecuted under insurance fraud laws. Georgia Insurance Code Title 33, Section 33-1-9, outlines that knowingly lying about or concealing an important fact in connection with an insurance claim is prohibited. Penalties for insurance fraud can include two to ten yea

GA arson lawyers Cory Yager, Bubba Head, and Larry Kohn will help you avoid a felony conviction for intentionally starting a fire to destroy a building, or personal property. An arrest is not a conviction.

Arson in the First Degree – 1st Degree Definition

A person commits arson in the first degree when they knowingly damage or cause damage to:

Any dwelling house of another without consent, or where another has a security interest, regardless of occupancy.

Any building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, or other structure designed for use as a dwelling, without consent.

Any insured property with the intent to defraud the insurer.

Any property with the intent to prejudice the rights of a spouse or co-owner.

Any property where it is reasonably foreseeable that human life might be endangered.

Penalties for a person convicted of first-degree arson include a fine of up to $50,000, imprisonment for one to twenty years, or both.

Arson in the Second Degree – 2nd Degree Definition

This degree involves setting fire or causing an explosion to a building, vehicle, or structure without permission. It does not always involve a home or attempting to deceive an insurance company. A conviction in the 2nd degree shall be punished with time in prison, hefty court fines, or both.

Arson in the Second Degree is a serious crime that can result in severe consequences. It is important to understand that intentionally setting fire to any property without permission is illegal and can put lives at risk. The penalties for this offense can include significant fines and lengthy prison sentences.

It is crucial to respect the law and the safety of others by refraining from engaging in any form of arson. If you suspect someone of committing arson or if you have been accused of this crime, it is important to seek legal advice and representation to protect your rights and navigate the legal process effectively.

Let us all work together to prevent arson and keep our communities safe. Clients who avoid jail time can still be punished by a fine they will struggle to pay for years.

Since 2023 criminal defense lawyer Larry Kohn has been ranked among the highest of all criminal law attorneys in Georgia. Larry will handle your arson case anywhere in the metro Atlanta area.

Arson in the Third Degree – 3rd Degree Definition

A person commits arson in the third degree when they knowingly damage personal property valued at $25 or more by fire or explosion. This degree typically involves personal property rather than real property or structures.

A competent criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta will give you a free consultation in person and will gather the facts in your case before any decision is made to hire this legal professional. An attorney with 20 years of courtroom experience knows exactly what steps to take to give you the best chance of avoiding a conviction. Your lawyer’s job requires information gathering including copies of all police reports, insurance company reports, and eyewitness statements.

Key Legal Definitions (Arson Glossary)

Intentional Damage: The damage by fire must be done knowingly and intentionally.

Means: The damage must be caused by fire or explosion.

Consent: Lack of consent from the property owner or security interest holder is crucial.

Procures another to damage: If a business owner “hires” someone to start the fire or explosion, the owner can be charged with arson too.

Expert Knowledge of Arson Laws

Arson lawyers have a deep understanding of both state and federal arson laws. They can navigate the complexities of these laws to build a strong defense tailored to your specific case. An arson lawyer in Atlanta can help you win your case by providing specialized legal expertise and a strategic defense. Here are several ways an experienced criminal lawyer can assist:

Investigate and Gather Evidence

A skilled arson lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation, gathering evidence that may include:

Fire Investigation Reports: Analyzing reports from fire investigators to identify any inconsistencies or errors.

Witness Testimonies: Interviewing witnesses to gather statements that support your defense.

Expert Witnesses: Hiring fire experts to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and provide alternative explanations for the fire. Most business owners are insured against loss from accidental fire but possibly not arson.

Challenge the GA Prosecutor’s Case

An experienced arson lawyer will scrutinize the prosecution’s case for weaknesses, such as:

Identify and challenge any evidence that may have been improperly obtained or is unreliable in Questionable Evidence.

Procedural Errors: Highlighting any procedural mistakes made by law enforcement or fire investigators that could undermine the prosecution’s case.

Develop a Successful Defense Strategy

Your lawyer will develop a defense strategy based on the specifics of your case, which may include:

Alibi: Providing evidence that you were not present at the scene of the fire.

Consent: If both the insurer and the insured consent to the burning, it is not considered arson.

Accidental Fire: If the fire was accidental and not intentionally set, it is not arson.

Lack of Motive: Demonstrating that you had no motive or reason to commit arson.

Negotiate a Plea Deal

If a trial is not in your best interest, your lawyer can negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution to potentially reduce charges or conviction penalties.

Appear In Court With You Every Time

Your lawyer will defend you in court by questioning witnesses and making strong arguments to the judge and jury.

Be There For Post-Trial Support

If necessary, an arson lawyer can assist with appeals or other post-trial motions to continue fighting for your rights.

By leveraging their expertise and resources, an arson lawyer in Atlanta can significantly improve your chances of a favorable outcome in your case.

Changes to Georgia Arson Laws in 2024

House Bill 500 (HB 500) introduced a new criminal charge for arson involving law enforcement vehicles. This new law was enacted in response to incidents such as the protests surrounding “Cop City.” It focuses on when someone sets fire to police vehicles, committing the crime of arson.

This new offense is very serious. It can result in a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for 5 to 20 years. It is classified as a felony. It is classified as a felony.

Call the arson legal experts at Kohn & Yager, an Atlanta criminal defense law firm -over 90 years of collective courtroom experience.

To report a suspected case of arson call the Georgia Arson Control toll-free number 1-800-282-5804.

William Head and Cory Yager have both held Martindale's highest possible ratings for over a decade. Mr. Head has been Av rated for over three decades.

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