If you are arrested and charged with arson in Pennsylvania, you can potentially face serious criminal consequences. In most cases, arson is considered a felony offense, and whether that offense is a third, second, or first degree felony is dependent on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Under Pennsylvania law, there are several different arson-related offenses. Specifically, you can be convicted of arson that endangers others if you:
- intentionally started a fire or caused an explosion; or
- aided, paid, agreed to pay, or counseled someone else to cause a fire or an explosion; and
- you thereby recklessly placed someone in danger of bodily injury or death, including but not limited to firefighters, police officers, or others who actively fight the fire; or
- you committed the act with the purpose of destroying or damaging an inhabited building or someone’s occupied structure.
Arson that endangers others is considered a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to twenty years in jail, and a fine of up to $25,000. If the arson results in any fatalities, whether you intended to cause death or not, you will likely face murder charges as well.
Arson is considered to be aggravated, if, rather than recklessly placing someone in danger of bodily injury or death, you attempt to cause, or you intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly cause injury to another. Aggravated arson is also committed if you also commit an additional felony offense during the course of an arson offense. Aggravated arson is considered a first degree felony, and again, if the aggravated arson results in the death of another, you can also face murder charges.
Arson Which Endangers Property
If the arson destroys a historic resource, and the intent of the arson was to destroy that resource, you can be charged with a second degree felony. Similarly, if the act of arson is committed with the intent to destroy or damage someone’s building or unoccupied structure, or it places an inhabited building or occupied structure in danger of being damaged or destroyed, or your intent was to destroy any property to collect insurance, you can also be found guilty of a second degree felony. Under Pennsylvania law, second degree felony convictions carry penalties of up to ten years in jail, and a fine of up to $25,000.
Recklessly Burning or Exploding
If you intend to start a fire or explosion, or convince someone else to do so, and you end up placing an uninhabited building or unoccupied structure in danger of being damaged or destroyed, or if you place someone else’s personal property, which is worth more than $5,000, such as a boat or motor vehicle, in danger of being destroyed or damaged, you can be charged with a third degree felony. A third degree felony conviction can result in up to seven years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000.
In most arson cases, it does not matter whether the fire or explosion happened on your own property or on the property of another. In addition, the building that is damaged during the fire or explosion does not have to actually be a business or a home in order for the offense to be considered arson. Moreover, the building does not necessarily have to burn completely to the ground in order to be found guilty of arson. It is important to note that the Commonwealth does not even need to prove that you had the intent to burn the building or structure down to convict you of an arson offense; the Commonwealth only needs to prove that you intentionally started the fire.
Contact an experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney today to help you fight your arson charge!
If you have been arrested and charged with arson in Pennsylvania, it is imperative that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney right away. The attorneys at Coover & Scheidemann have successfully helped other people who have faced similar criminal arson charges like yours, and they can review your case, and help you determine the best strategy for fighting your arson charge.