The Law on Arson Crimes

Arson crimes are defined as the malicious, deliberate attempt to set fire to buildings, vehicles, wildlife areas, boats, forests, or other property, with the intention of causing damage. Arson crimes are usually classified as felonies because of the intentional, premeditated nature of the crime, and because of the potential for injury or death. Spontaneous combustion or wildlife fires are not arson crimes because they are accidental or natural.

Degree of Seriousness

The degree of the arson case results in different punishments. Setting fire to an abandoned warehouse might result in less punishment than if someone sets fire to an occupied building. Elite law enforcement units use chemical analyses to locate the point of origin at a scene, and often the intent. For instance, some arson crimes hide other crimes, such as murder or domestic violence, or for financial gain.

Due to the myriad of degrees of arson crimes, the sentencing for such an act varies widely. A light sentencing (for instance, the abandoned warehouse example above) might result in probation or minimal jail time. A malicious fire or explosion that was proven to try and cause harm (Aggravated Arson, or Arson in the First Degree) could result in life imprisonment, or even the death penalty.

Insurance Fraud and Arson Crimes

Often a person will commit arson crimes to try and collect proceeds from a fire insurance policy. If, for example, someone has a failing building that might be worth half on the market as their insurance claim is on the building, the homeowner might try to burn the building down to collect the insurance money. In this case, that person would be guilty of both arson and insurance fraud.

Because of the varying degrees and wide spectrum of punishments surrounding arson crimes, it’s important to have a criminal defense attorney with a clear understanding of arson laws, so that they can deduce the severity of your case, and act accordingly.


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