Charged with interfering with fire fighting?  Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C., Wisconsin’s premier criminal defense firm.

Charges for interfering with fire fighting get very serious, very quickly.  Physically interfering with actual fire fighters or alarm systems is a Class I felony.  A conviction for this offense carries a maximum penalty of 3.5 years in prison, $10,000.00 in fines, or both.  Importantly, that prison sentence breaks down into 1.5 years initial confinement (time in prison) followed by 2 years extended supervision (similar to probation).

A related offense that falls under the “interfering with fire fighting” statute is only punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.  That offense carries a maximum penalty of $10,000.00 in fines, 9 months in jail, or both.  The Class A misdemeanor offense involves tampering with fire extinguishers, fire hoses or any other fire fighting equipment.  While prison is certainly more serious than jail, these are both serious offenses that carry with them the possibility of incarceration.

Van Severen Law Office, S.C., is a Wisconsin criminal defense law firm focused on defending individuals facing serious charges throughout the state.  Frequently those charges involve interfering with fire fighters or law enforcement personnel.  Sometimes cases involve charges as simple as illegally pulling a fire alarm.  In other situations, even more serious charges, such as arson, become involved in a criminal prosecution.  Either way, our firm and our criminal defense lawyers stand ready to aggressively fight your criminal case.

Contact us at (414) 270-0202 to speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers and to schedule your free consultation.

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Section 941.12 of the Wisconsin Statutes – Interfering with fire fighting

Section 941.12 of the Wisconsin Statutes provides the law addressing interfering with fire fighting.  It says:

(1)Whoever intentionally interferes with the proper functioning of a fire alarm system or the lawful efforts of fire fighters to extinguish a fire is guilty of a Class I felony.
(2) Whoever interferes with, tampers with or removes, without authorization, any fire extinguisher, fire hose or any other fire fighting equipment, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
(3) Whoever interferes with accessibility to a fire hydrant by piling or dumping material near it without first obtaining permission from the appropriate municipal authority is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. Every day during which the interference continues constitutes a separate offense.
Importantly, this page focuses on the first two definitions of interfering with fire fighting:
  • The first is the most serious, and it’s a Class I felony.  Specifically, it focuses on interfering with fire alarm systems or firefighters actively engaged in extinguishing a fire.  It could involve damaging an alarm system or disabling a system’s ability to sound an alarm.  Alternatively, the interference with fire fighters could be physically grabbing them.
  • The second is a Class A misdemeanor and focuses on tampering with or removing fire extinguishers, fire hoses, or fire fighting equipment.  The main difference is that this crime focuses on equipment rather than alarm systems.  Grabbing and removing or stealing a fire extinguisher in an apartment building is an example of this offense.

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1318 – Interference with fire fighting

Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1318 describes interfering with fire fighting.  This is the case even though the title of the jury instruction slightly differs from the law (interfering versus interference).  Importantly, the jury instruction we’re discussing here focuses on the first version of this crime – that the defendant actively interfered with firefighters trying to extinguish a fire.

Jury instructions break laws down into separate parts, also called elements.  The government must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt.  If they cannot do that, you cannot be convicted of the crime.  Courts, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, and even defendants use jury instructions to help understand criminal charges.

The elements of this crime are:

  • Firstly, the defendant interfered with the lawful efforts of fire fighters to extinguish a fire.
  • Secondly, the defendant intentionally interfered with the lawful efforts of fire fighters to extinguish a fire.
    • “Intentionally” requires that the defendant acted with the mental purpose to interfere with the lawful efforts of fire fighters to extinguish a fire.
  • Finally, the defendant knew that he was interfering with the lawful efforts of fire fighters to extinguish a fire.

Breaking this crime down into three parts makes it incredibly easy to understand.  The defendant interfered, he did so intentionally, and he knew he was interfering.  The intent element is especially important here.  Sometimes during emergencies, neighbors, friends, and other good samaritans try to help get fires under control.  Simply helping and making a mistake does not trigger the intent element here.

What is the best way to defend a criminal case?

Just like the fact that all defendants are different, all criminal cases are different.  When we’re dealing with fires and fire fighting situations, there’s a wide variety of scenarios that could come into play.  Was the interference with fire fighters in your case passive, with no reason impact on the broader situation?  Or was your interference so aggravated that it impacted the fire fighters’ abilities to deal with the blaze?  Connecting the defendant’s actions to the eventual harm that occurred can serve to both mitigate and aggravate the seriousness of the offense.

One of the first things we do when defending a criminal case is to investigate any potential pre-trial motions.  Motions request that the court take some action.  Sometimes that’s suppressing certain pieces of evidence for use at trial.  That could include verbal evidence, such as confessions, or physical evidence, such as guns or drugs.  It could involve search warrants, an argument that the search was illegal, and a request to the court to exclude all evidence connected to that search.  Motions are something we typically discuss during our free initial consultations.  It’s at that point that we can begin determining what applies to your case.

If your case does not resolve with either a dismissal of charges against you, or a plea, our next task is to figure out possible trial defenses.  There’s a wide variety of possible trial defenses, and while it can be a bit difficult to predict which ones will be in play, this is also something we discuss with potential clients at their consultation.

Fire fighters battling a blazing fire
Interfering with fire fighting is at least a Class A misdemeanor in Wisconsin. In the worst circumstances, it becomes a Class I felony. Contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 for help defending this or any other criminal charge.

Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. to speak with one of Wisconsin’s best criminal defense law firms

Fires are inherently dangerous.  Efforts to slow or disable those who are tasked with putting out fires can lead to excessively aggressive prosecution and attention from the media.  Fortunately for you, you’ve found your way to a top Wisconsin criminal defense law firm regularly involved in cases such as this.  We’ve fought prosecutors who were unfair, or didn’t follow the law, or simply tried to make an example out of clients.  We’ve also protected clients receiving attention from the media.  Not all criminal defense attorneys have this important, necessary experience.

Lastly, we offer free consultations to potential clients.  During that free consultation, you’ll have around an hour to sit down, talk to one of our criminal defense attorneys, and figure out if we’re a match for your needs.  We believe in being transparent and fair, which is why this consultation is always free with our firm.

Contact us at (414) 270-0202.  Let’s start fighting your case together.

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