Arson is the act of burning homes, buildings or other structures and it is against the law in every state in the U.S. Proving someone set a structure on fire with malicious intent is not always an easy task. The following is an overview of the crime of arson and the penalties it can carry depending on the laws in your specific state. If you have been charged with the crime of arson, it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney for advice.
The Definition Of Arson
Arson is defined as the setting of another person’s property on fire. This can be a car, boat or dwelling. In most states, the crime of arson carries heavier penalties if the structure is occupied and there was a risk to human life or someone was injured in the blaze.
What Are The Degrees Of The Crime?
Lawmakers have broken down the crime of arson, depending on the severity of the crime. Some things investigators and prosecutors take into consideration when charging someone with arson are if anyone was hurt and if the structure was in the country or in a town where people reside. Because arson investigations are complex, it can take months before a suspect is charged with the crime of arson.
Why Does Someone Commit The Crime Of Arson?
While it is impossible to tell what is going through someone’s mind when they commit a crime, there are some reasons that motivate arsonists. Many arson’s go unsolved, making it difficult to know what causes someone to go to this extreme measure. However, experts have found that the following things motivate arsonists in some cases:
- Insurance Money
Studies have also shown that many people who are extremely intelligent commit the crime of arson because it is a challenge and provides them with an adrenaline rush they cannot find anywhere else. Some people who become arsonists suffer abuse as a child or during their teenage years, making humiliation and shame a primary cause of acting out in this way. There are also people who are sexually aroused by setting things on fire and getting away with it.
There are some things that experts have found to be warning signs when children are young that may indicate a future arsonist is in the making. Some of the primary warning signs are:
- Children Who Begin Playing With Matches At A Young Age
- Children Who Are Noticeably Excited To Watch A Fire Burn
- Children And Teenagers Who Have A Daredevil Mentality
- Children Who Mix Chemicals Together For Fun
What Are The Penalties For The Crime Of Arson?
Most states divide the penalty for arson by degrees as follows:
- First Degree
First degree arson is the most serious charge, occurring when someone sets a structure on fire that contains people inside or in close proximity.
- Second Degree
Second degree arson is the act of setting an unoccupied structure ablaze.
- Third Degree
Setting abandoned or unoccupied structures on fire constitutes arson in the third degree.
In the United States the mandatory minimum sentence for someone found guilty of the crime of arson is a fine of $15,000.00 and 3 to 5 years in state prison. Because this is the minimum penalty for those convicted of third degree arson, those convicted of more serious charges in the second and first degree will face higher fines and longer incarceration times in most instances.
Being accused of arson is very serious and your freedom is at risk if convicted. If you are facing an arson charge, it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney before it is too late. Having an experienced attorney to look out for your best interest may help get your charges reduced or even dropped. Hiring an attorney can also reduce the stress and anxiety that is always a part of being charged with a criminal case in the United States.