Tacoma Man Allegedly Set Fire to Ex-Girlfriend's Home—While She Was Inside

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Nov 11

Lewis & Laws

Tacoma Man Allegedly Set Fire to Ex-Girlfriend's Home—While She Was Inside

by Lewis & Laws

Tacoma Man Allegedly Set Fire to Ex-Girlfriend’s Home—While She Was Inside

A Tacoma man, Michael Jarvis, was arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail, accused of a variety of charges, including arson and domestic violence. A Crime Stoppers lead resulted in Jarvis' arrest. Police believe that Jarvis set fire to his ex-girlfriend's home (on South D. Street in Tacoma) as she slept inside. Jarvis was also under investigation for sending death threats to the ex-girlfriend, as well as for violating numerous domestic violence protective orders.

Jarvis was eventually charged with arson in the first degree, harassment, five counts of cyberstalking, and two counts of disclosing intimate images. Jarvis is a transient who has been known to frequent downtown Tacoma and the Lincoln District; Tacoma police consider him to be armed and potentially dangerous.

Arson Charges in the State of Washington

Arson charges are severe in the state of Washington. When a person knowingly and maliciously does any of the following, he or she may be charged with arson in the first degree—a Class A felony, punishable by up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine.

  • Causes a fire in a dwelling or residence
  • Starts a fire in an occupied building
  • Starts a fire which causes damage in excess of $10,000 with an intention of collecting insurance payments, or
  • Causes a fire which endangers the life of another

The "standard" range of punishment for a person convicted of arson in the first degree is 21 to 27 months in prison. Those penalties can increase significantly when there are other charges, when a deadly weapon is present, or when the offense can be categorized as a domestic violence offense.

It is not necessary for the state to prove the house was occupied at the time the fire was set, only whether the fire was “manifestly dangerous to human life.” This will take into account the combustibility of the house, the house’s proximity to other structures, and the potential presence of occupants inside the house. The danger to firefighters may also be taken into consideration. 

A fire that is caused as a result of carelessness is not considered arson; the prosecutor must show the defendant acted maliciously and knowingly. To act with malice means "an evil intent, wish, or design to vex, annoy, or injure another person." Under Washington law, malice can be inferred from an act that is perpetrated through willful disregard of another's rights. Danger is not only measured by actual harm, but also for the potential for harm.

Arson in the second degree is also considered a violent felony, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine as large as $20,000. However, the standard range of punishment for a person who has no prior criminal history is only 3 to 9 months.

Defenses to Charges of Arson

When arson is the result of mental health issues such as pyromania (an impulse control disorder), the disorder could lead to reduced time in jail or prison. Arson may be committed in the context of domestic violence, or in an attempt to cover up another crime. In some cases, arson is committed for the sole purpose of collecting on an insurance policy, and, as such, could be charged as fraud.

If you are suspected of arson, it is important to contact a Seattle criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. It is vital that you not make any statement to investigators, police, or the insurance company until you have spoken to an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney.

Getting Help From Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys at Lewis & Laws, PLLC

If you are charged with a crime in Seattle, such as arson, contact an experienced Seattle criminal defense lawyer immediately. Arson charges are very serious and could affect your entire future. Without an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, you may find yourself spending time behind bars, as well as paying hefty fines.

The experienced lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC have successfully defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form.

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