Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

Accused Georgia Church Member Provides Illustration of First-Degree Arson in Georgia

Posted by Richard Lawson | Feb 04, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Camilla, Georgia was set on fire last Tuesday morning. There is estimated to be more than $100,000 in damages as a result of the fire. Two days later, Kentrez Gardner confessed to setting the fire and has been charged with first-degree arson and burglary. 

What constitutes arson in Georgia?

As usual, we look to the Georgia Code for the law on first-degree arson in Georgia

“A person will be guilty of arson in the first degree when, by means of fire or explosion, whether or not in the commission of a felony, he or she knowingly damages or knowingly causes, aids, abets, advises, encourages, hires, counsels, or procures another to damage: Any dwelling house of another without his or her consent or in which another has a security interest, including but not limited to a mortgage, a lien, or a conveyance to secure debt, without the consent of both, whether it is occupied, unoccupied, or vacant; Any building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, or other structure of another without his or her consent or in which another has a security interest, including but not limited to a mortgage, a lien, or a conveyance to secure debt, without the consent of both, if such structure is designed for use as a dwelling, whether it is occupied, unoccupied, or vacant; Any dwelling house, building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, aircraft, or other structure whether it is occupied, unoccupied, or vacant and when such is insured against loss or damage by fire or explosive and such loss or damage is accomplished without the consent of both the insurer and the insured; Any dwelling house, building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, aircraft, or other structure whether it is occupied, unoccupied, or vacant with the intent to defeat, prejudice, or defraud the rights of a spouse or co-owner; or Any building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, aircraft, or other structure under such circumstances that is reasonably foreseeable that human life might be endangered.” O.C.G.A. §16-7-60.

To break down this statute, we look the two main elements of first-degree arson. First, the damage must be knowingly done. Second, it was done by explosive or fire. As in any criminal conviction, the state of Georgia must show that the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They must show that the accused person did the burning, and that the fire had an incendiary origin.

What are the penalties for a conviction of arson?

There are three different degrees of arson in the state of Georgia. All degrees of arson are considered felonies in the state of Georgia. If you are convicted of first-degree arson, you may receive a prison sentence of one to twenty years, a fine up to $50,000, or both. If you are convicted of second-degree arson in Georgia, you may receive a prison sentence of one to ten years, a fine up to $25,000, or both. If you are convicted of third-degree arson in Georgia, you may receive a prison sentence of one to five years, a fine up to $10,000, or both. 

If the allegations are true, Gardner will be facing some serious consequences if indicted. It is important however, that even though someone is accused of a crime does not mean that he or she is guilty of that crime or that every allegation is even true. This is why hiring a top-rated Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer is so important in a criminal case. Here, at Lawson and Berry, we explore all potential and viable defenses and ensure that a person who is accused of a crime is never assumed to be guilty. 

If you or a loved one has been charged with arson in the state of Georgia, you need a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney. Call our offices today so that we can help craft the best defense for your case.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard Lawson has devoted his entire career to DUI Defense. He exclusively handles DUI Cases. As a former DUI Prosecutor he knows both sides of your case. Put his experience to work for you. You only have 30 days to protect your right to drive. Call now for immediate attention. We are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

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