An Arson Attorney Explains Degrees of Arson

Arson Attorney Springfield, MO

Arson is a serious crime, and anyone accused of this offense may consider retaining an arson attorney to help understand the nature of the charges. Although the specific degrees of this crime vary from state to state, the aspects of arson generally stem from common law.

Definitions of arson

Cornell Law School explains arson as “originally defined as the malicious burning of the dwelling of another.” In its modern legal definition, an intentional fire set to any residence, structure, land, car, or recreational vehicle could qualify as arson. Each state has its own parameters and classifications for arson charges. Some jurisdictions distinguish as many as five degrees, and others acknowledge only one. However, most arson falls into one of three degrees with other qualifications that can influence sentencing.

First-degree arson

The first degree is defined as a fire set intentionally to a structure while one or more persons are inside. This charge often requires foreknowledge on the part of the accused that the building was occupied.

Second-degree arson

The second degree occurs when the destroyed or damaged building is abandoned or empty of persons during the duration of the fire. An example could be an office building over the weekend when no one is present inside.

Third-degree arson

The third degree generally covers most other property that is not traditionally occupied by human beings. This can include structures like parking garages or empty fields and lots.

Aggravated, reckless, and other arson-related charges

If a fire was set with extraordinarily malicious intent, the charge could be upgraded to aggravated arson. This usually means the accused attempted to cause fear or bodily harm to someone. The suspect’s malicious intent could stem from extreme emotion that might drive an individual to hurt another person. In some jurisdictions, the intent to defraud an insurance company by destroying property in a fire may be considered an aggravated case of arson. Retaining an arson attorney can help an accused person fully understand these charges. 

Reckless arson is typically qualified as unintentional destruction caused by willful disobedience or unconcern. For example, if an individual starts a campfire in a prohibited area or under dangerous circumstances and damages private or public property, it is often considered reckless. A reckless accusation may also be added to an existing arson charge if the intended fire burns out of control and destroys adjacent structures or areas. The sentencing for reckless arson alone is often less severe; however, the costs of containment and reparations can be high, and those responsible could be liable for damages.

Other crimes can be charged in addition to arson depending on the intent and extent of the damage and injury. A charge of insurance fraud might come about if the fire was set for the purpose of filing a false claim. If a person is killed in an arson fire, the accused could also incur manslaughter, homicide, or even murder charges.

Conclusion

Intentionally setting fire to property without the owner’s knowledge or consent could result in an arson charge, and the penalties are often severe. A knowledgeable arson attorney may be able to help the accused understand the charges and represent the individual throughout the legal process.

Request an appointment here: https://www.deanpricelaw.com or call Dean Price Law at (417) 865-2181 for an appointment in our Springfield office.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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