Any person who willfully and maliciously sets fire to, burns, or causes to be burned, or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property may be charged with the crime of arson.
A person may be charged with aggravated arson if:
(1) The burning is done deliberately and with planning ahead of time
(2) Injuries someone and/or burns a structure or area that will likely result in injuries
- Has a previous conviction for arson within the last ten years
- The damage caused by the fire exceeds the amount of $5,650,000
- The fire damages five or more inhabited dwellings such as a house.
A person may be charged the lesser crime of unlawfully causing a fire if it can be shown that the burning was reckless and not malicious and willful. Both arson and unlawfully causing a fire will be more severely punished if the property burned is inhabited. “Inhabited property” or “inhabited structure,” means a building that may be used to live in.
Types of Arson and Their Punishments
- Arson of property is a felony and may be punishable by imprisonment for 16 months, two years, or up to three years.
- Arson of a structure or arson of forest land may be punishable by imprisonment for two, four, or six years in state prison. For example: If the arson was an inhabited structure it may be punishable by imprisonment for three, five, or eight years.
- Arson resulting in great bodily injury to another person may be punishable by imprisonment for five, seven, or nine years.
There may also be aggravating factors such as the person's motivation for burning or the type of place burned such as a hospital or a school. These factors can add to the amount of time a person is imprisoned as well.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys
Often times, an experienced criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between prison and freedom for a person charged with arson. There are many options and defenses that are available in all cases and no two situations are ever alike. If you or someone you know is being charged with arson the best thing you can do is retain an experienced attorney who will defend your case.
To schedule your a free consultation and case evaluation, contact our arson attorneys.