If you are facing arson charges, contact Phoenix criminal defense attorney Burges McCowan.
What is Arson?
Arson, at its most basic, is defined as purposely setting a fire in an attempt to damage something. Arson can include setting fire to:
- Wildlands such as forests or parks
- Any other property such as a dumpster, structure, farm, lawn, etc.
The defining characteristic for Arson charges is usually the intent to harm or damage the property of another.
In Arizona, there are several types of Arson, and penalties for each are slightly different. They are:
Reckless burning is distinguished from other types of arson in that the fire or damage that occurred was unintentional. This can be a fire, or explosion, that damages structures or common land, whether or not it is occupied. Reckless burning is considered a class 1 misdemeanor, and if you’re charged with reckless burning, you can be looking at up to 6 months in jail and fines of up to $2,500.
Arson of a Structure or Property
ARS 13-1703 unoccupied, ARS 13-1704 occupied
This occurs when the arson, or unlawful burning, is directed toward a property that has value. The penalty for this type of Arson depends on the value of the property and whether or not it was occupied at the time of the fire. Generally, unless the value of the property is less than $100, you will be looking at felony charges.
The charges for Arson of a structure or property are as follows:
- If it is an unoccupied structure, then based upon the value of the property:
- Less than $100--Class 1 Misdemeanor, up to 6 months jail time
- $100-$1,000--Class 5 Felony, up to 2.5 years prison time
- Over $1,000--Class 4 Felony, up to 3.75 years prison time
- If it is an occupied structure, regardless of value, it is a class 2 felony, punishable by up to 12.5 years of prison time.
Under this statute, it is illegal to start a fire on wild or public land if it does not conform to the following standards:
- Burning as part of agriculture
- Fire management by an approved body (i.e. the Fire Department)
- Controlled burns with written permission
- Fires for the purpose of cooking or warmth (unless there is a fire ban in place).
All other burning is considered arson. If wildlands burning is done accidentally, like a campfire that gets out of control, it is considered a class 2 (negligent) or 1 (reckless) misdemeanor. If done intentionally, it is considered a class 6 felony, and if a structure or person is placed in danger (even if no damage occurred) the offense is considered a class 3 felony.
What should you do if you are accused of Arson?
Arson charges are no laughing matter. The penalties and fines for arson are very stiff, and in addition, you can be held liable for all damages and even the cost of fire and police responding to the scene. These charges should be taken very seriously. If you are charged with arson, it is important to immediately exercise your right to remain silent. Then, find an experienced attorney, who will be your voice in the legal system and can get your charges reduced or even dropped.