Arson involves intentionally setting fire to property. It is a serious offense in Nebraska given the consequences of a conviction. The following information is an overview of arson in Nebraska, including its legal definitions and the penalties involved. Readers can also get clarification into the possible defenses to arson charges and the role of a criminal defense lawyer in these cases.

Omaha Arson Defense Lawyers

Under Nebraska law, Arson charges can vary from misdemeanor criminal mischief to as much as 50 years in prison. Don’t take the chance. Let our firm serve you.

Our firm proudly serves Omaha in Douglas County, including Lincoln in Lancaster County, Papillion in Sarpy County, Fremont in Dodge County and Council Bluffs in Pattawattamie County, Iowa and the surrounding areas. If you or a loved one has been charged or is under investigation for Arson, feel free to call our firm immediately at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case.

What is Arson in Nebraska?

The statutes in Nebraska categorize arson into different degrees based on the severity and specific circumstances of the offense. First-degree arson, as stated in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-502, occurs when an individual intentionally damages a building or property within a building by starting a fire or causing an explosion. This offense is particularly serious if there is another person present in the building at the time of the incident. The severity is greater if the perpetrator either knows of the person’s presence or if the circumstances suggest that a person is present. Furthermore, first-degree arson also encompasses situations where a fire or explosion is set off in connection with criminal mischief, burglary, or robbery.

Second-degree arson, according to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-503, involves similar acts of intentional damage to a building or property within a building by fire or explosion. However, the distinguishing factor for second-degree arson is that it does not require the presence of another person in the building. This degree also includes situations where the arson is committed in connection with criminal mischief, burglary, or robbery.

Third-degree arson, as outlined in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-504, means the intentional setting of fire to property of another person without their consent. It also includes the use of explosives to damage or destroy another person’s property without their consent. This degree of arson pertains to property not contained within a building and does not include buildings or occupied structures themselves.

In addition to these degrees of arson, Nebraska law under Revised Statute §28-505 also describes an offense known as “burning to defraud an insurer.” This involves setting fire to or burning property, either owned by the individual or another, which is insured against fire loss, with the intent to deceive or harm the insurer.

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What are the Penalties for Arson in Nebraska?

First-degree arson, being the most serious, is categorized as a Class II felony under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-502. According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-105, the punishment for a Class II felony includes imprisonment for a period ranging from 1 to 50 years.

Second-degree arson is classified as a Class III felony under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-503. The penalties for a Class III felony include imprisonment ranging from 0 to 4 years, followed by 9 to 24 months of post-release supervision, and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

Third-degree arson’s penalties are variable and depend on the extent of the damage caused. Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-504, if the damages amount to $1,500 or more, it is treated as a Class IV felony, with penalties including 0 to 2 years in prison, 9 to 12 months post-release supervision, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the damages are between $500 and $1,500, it is a Class I misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For damages less than $500, it is a Class II misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Burning to defraud an insurer, under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-505, is a Class IV felony. The associated penalties include 0 to 2 years in prison, 9 to 12 months of post-release supervision, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Probation, which can allow an individual to avoid some or all of their jail sentence, might be possible under certain conditions. Conditions of probation may include avoiding unlawful behavior, maintaining employment or education, and visiting with a probation officer. For example, the Treatment Diversion Program in Lancaster County might accept individuals with misdemeanor charges that contain evidence of arson. Completion of the program generally allows the individual’s case to be dismissed and for the individual to avoid having a criminal record.

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What are Some Specific Defenses to Arson in Nebraska?

In Nebraska, specific defenses can be raised in cases of arson, particularly concerning second-degree arson as defined under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-503. One key defense is the absence of a legal interest in the damaged building by any person other than the accused. If the accused is the sole owner of the property and no other parties have a stake or interest in it, this can be a valid defense against the charge. Additionally, if other people do have interests in the property, a defense can be mounted if all those parties had consented to the accused’s conduct.

Another significant defense pertains to the intent behind the act. If the accused’s main intent was to damage or destroy the building for a lawful and proper purpose, or the burning of the building was a mistake, this can be introduced as a defense. It implies that the action was not carried out with criminal intent or malice but rather for a legitimate reason, such as controlled demolition or removal of a hazardous structure.

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How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Someone Facing Arson Charges

A criminal defense lawyer provides assistance to clients charged with property crimes, including arson, in the state of Nebraska. The lawyer examines the details of the case, including how the fire started and the client’s intent, to develop a defense strategy. They can challenge the prosecution’s evidence, ensuring that the accused’s rights are protected throughout the legal process. The lawyer also represents the client in court, presenting arguments and evidence to the judge and jury. By doing so, they aim to achieve the best possible outcome, whether it’s a reduced sentence, acquittal, or other favorable results.

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Additional Resources

Arson and Youth Firesetting: Explains how to protect homes, houses of worship, construction sites, and vacant buildings from risks of arson.
FBI’s Statistics about Arson: The Federal Bureau of Investigation provides an overview of national data on arson offenses and links to detailed data.