Jail Time for Arson: 1 Year to Life

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By Jessie Villanueva

jail time for arson

Jail time for arson can range from 1 year to life depending on the circumstances.  Arson is a serious crime where courts often give punishment to the fullest extent of the law. In extreme arson cases, the arsonist can have a life sentence. For such high-level charges, you must have to hire a professional lawyer. If you have unfortunately got your hands dirty with arson crime then this blog post will let you know of the depth consequences and the expected jail time. punishment.

Table of Contents

What Is Arson?

Arson is a crime where a person, trying to damage someone’s property, causes intentional fire or explosion. Now the penalties can vary as it depends upon the type and value of the property, the defendant’s intent, and lastly whether the damaged property was occupied or not. 

Usually, in arson scenarios, states impose the harshest penalties as they cause bodily harm and risk to human life.

What Type of Crime is Arson?

When crimes are classified, they are categorized into three major sections. 

  1. The first one on the list is called Infractions which are the least serious crimes like jaywalking or traffic violations. 
  2. Second are Misdemeanors that are more serious than infractions including simple thefts or assaults, etc. 
  3. Lastly, we have Felonies that are more severe than both misdemeanors and infractions and include kidnapping, murder, robbery, etc.

In the arson case, both misdemeanors and felonies can take part. This is because the intensity of arson crime depends upon the law of the state and the description of the offense.

Arson in a misdemeanor category is often less severe and arsonists are punished for approximately a year in jail. If the arsonist has a good lawyer, then his/her punishment can also be converted into probation, fines, or community services.  

In the case of felonies, arsonists have to face serious punishment. He/she is punished in jail for more than a year and has to go through intense law enforcement and harsh attention from prosecutors. 

Here is the list of various factors upon which an arsonist receives charges;

  1. What type of property is burned?
  2. How much damage has been done to the property?
  3. Has anyone been injured?
  4. What is the extent of the victim’s injuries? 

Along with these above factors, the court will decide whether the arsonist committed such a crime to deceive or not. These so-called “aggravating’ factors can be the source of the severity of the charges that will be brought by prosecutors. 

Overall, whether the arsonist falls in the misdemeanor or felony category will be determined by the respective state and its law. An arson can be a misdemeanor if the arsonist sets fires only to a piece of land which as a result does not cause any further harm. But it can be a felony if the arsonist starts the fire in someone’s home while they are inside the house. 

Arson charges can be intricate as seen in New York, where a prosecutor can select from five different degrees of arson charges for arsonists. The jail time for arson will vary according to the charges brought against the defendant.

How your state handles the arson charges can depend upon the prior arson cases and written law about it. Thus, it’s better to consult with a professional criminal defense attorney to know clearly about such circumstances. 

arson set house of fire

Elements of the Crime of Arson

There are several elements into which the crime of arson is divided. In many states, it’s necessary for the prosecution to prove all the elements of the arson crime to get an arson sentence. Once all elements are proved or disproved, a fair jail time for arson will be determined by the justice system.

1. Setting the Fire

Firstly, the arsonist must be proven guilty of fire setting. 

The way an arsonist sets the fire can directly influence the intensity of the charges. The things that matter are the intentions, whether the arsonist sets the fire intentionally, recklessly, or maliciously. Fire can be set through lighters, matches, gasoline, explosives, etc. 

While judging an arsonist case, the court has to take into account the indirect fires an arsonist starts. For instance, the offender can set fire to a piece of land with no intention of causing harm to the attached home. However, if the home does get burned, the arsonist has to face the consequences of it too. 

2. Property Damage

There has to be property damage, to give conviction to arsonists. There has to be damage evident from the fire, it could be burned buildings, crops left in ashes, or cars exploded. 

In many states, minor property damage caused by a fire settled by the arsonist (intentionally or unintentionally) can lead to a conviction.

3. Intent

Many crimes, arson included, require the intent element. Further details regarding intent depend upon respective state laws. 

A mere act of starting a fire is enough to ensure the offender has an intent for arson. But this happens in some states. In other states, the prosecutor has to prove that the offender has the full intent of causing the fire and to damage the property. A driver involved in a car accident that resulted in a fire explosion is unlikely to be charged with arson because the intent to start the fire can easily be disproved with the help of a competent defense attorney. The crux of the matter here is dangerous driving and not arson.

Some states can also convict arsonists for carelessly starting a fire, like by disobeying fire ordinances, or lighting fireworks in a flammable area. Here they still have to face charges of arson. 

Arson Jail Time and Penalties

Arson crime can be further divided into three different degrees. Let’s get to know them briefly;

First-Degree arson

When the arsonist is aware of the fact that someone is inside or near the intentionally burned building, then this severity is called first-degree arson. This is considered the most severe arson crime as a life-threatening impact has been placed on other human life. If an individual got injured from such an act or even lost their life, then it is called a Class A felony crime. In this case, the jail time for arson will be 10-30 years.

But if no individual gets hurt or dies, then it will be called a Class B felony crime. Here, the jail time for arson will range between 5-15 years in jail.  

Second-Degree arson

When the arsonist is not aware of the person who is near or inside the intentionally burned building, then this will be referred to as second-degree arson. It is a Class D felony and the arsonist has to face approximately 7 years of jail time for arson.

Third-Degree arson

In third-degree arson, an arsonist knowingly uses an explosion or fire but the damage that occurs from such elements is accidental. In Missouri, this is considered a Class A misdemeanor and an arsonist will be given the punishment of one year in jail and a monetary fine of up to $2,000. In this case, arson jail time is one year. This is the minimum jail time for arson I found out in my extensive research.

Concluding Arson Jail Time

arson defense lawyer

Arson crime is something that must not be done in the first place but if this mishap occurred, arsonists have to speak to a local criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you in getting to know the consequences and will protect your rights in the criminal justice process.

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