A 49-year-old St. Petersburg woman was arrested Monday morning for allegedly attempting to torch her boyfriend's apartment while his sister was inside.
The woman was charged with arson, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
St. Petersburg police claim the woman and her boyfriend got into a domestic dispute early in the night, which prompted the woman to go over to the man's apartment.
The man's sister apparently saw the woman knocking on the door through the window, but did not let the woman inside.
According to reports, around 3:50 a.m. the woman allegedly hauled a grill to the front door and placed "combustible" items like a pillow, paper, wood and a floor mat on the grill outside the door and proceeded to set the items on fire.
The woman allegedly dragged a plastic garbage can filled with trash to another door at the rear entrance of the apartment and set that on fire as well.
Police were called to extinguish the fires. No one was injured in the fire, nor was the apartment seriously damaged.
Police did not say if the boyfriend was actually inside the apartment.
The woman was taken to the Pinellas County jail with bail set at $52,150.
Residential fires can start for a variety of reasons, but when law enforcement believes a fire was intentionally set, the accused can be charged with arson. To be charged with arson, no person needs to be home or present in the area. In the state of Florida, arson may be classified as a first-degree or second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 or 30 years in prison. There are many factors that determine the level of the charge. The prior criminal record of the accused, the circumstances of the particular case and the damage done to the property can all influence charges and potential penalties.
Law enforcement agencies working at the local, state and federal levels have sophisticated methods of handling evidence in crimes scenes involving arson that allows them to identify the exact cause of the fire. At Whittel & Melton, our attorneys work with chemical and explosives experts to help those accused of arson. This knowledge can be helpful when investigating the case as well as in creating a zealous defense against the charges. Sometimes these cases can be dismissed based on one mistake by law enforcement or crime scene investigators.
Arson is classified as a violent crime, and like all violent offenses, an arson conviction carries harsh legal consequences. Arson cases are typically prosecuted quite vigorously by the State, which is why it is essential to contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney immediately following an arson arrest. If you are convicted of arson you could face imprisonment, restitution expenses and major fines.
If you have been charged with arson in St. Petersburg or throughout the state of Florida, contact the Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton online or call our Pinellas County office at 727-847-2299 or dial us statewide and toll-free at 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).