U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Florida Arson Prosecution - A Trial Manual for Florida Prosecutors

NCJ Number
G E Burnette; L W Smith
Date Published
155 pages
This manual discusses the new arson law enacted by Florida in 1979 as it affects traditional problems associated with prosecuting arson and offers guidelines for each step of a criminal prosecution from the initial arson investigation through the trial.
This document first details the statutory authority of the State Fire Marshall to investigate the scene of a fire and then describes the basic techniques used in arson investigation, including cause and origin determination, sampling and preservation of evidence, ascertaining the use of an accelerant, and evidence documentation. Legal limitations on the search and seizure of physical evidence that fire investigators should know are examined. A law review article constitutes the manual's section on Florida's arson laws. It outlines the history of Chapter 806 of the Florida Statutes relating to first and second degree arson and firebombs and interprets the language of the 1979 legislation. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RIC0) law, mail fraud, and conspiracy are discussed as alternatives to charging under the arson law. The chapter on the pretrial stage illustrates methods of charging arson in Florida and then reviews the prosecutor's obligation of disclosure under various rules of procedure and case law. Topics addressed specifically include the status of police reports, Brady discovery, prosecutor case files, Williams rule evidence, and alibi demands. Sanctions available to the court in event of a discovery violation are presented. Other discussions focus on preparing a witness and constructing a trial outline. Finally, the trial section explores special considerations of selecting a jury for an arson case, outlines typical proof involved in a case in chief, and offers arguments and supporting case law for rebutting a motion for judgement of acquittal. General suggestions consider the closing argument, jury instructions, and sentencing, The appendixes contain checklists for arson investigators, a business records search, and witnesses, as well as various search warrant forms and model jury instructions. Case and reference citations are indexed.