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What to know about the Offense of Arson

In the state of New York, arson is a common, but serious offense. Like many other offenses, the crime is committed among a wide range of people, and the reason for committing the offense varies in the different age groups. Some common reasons for an attempt at arson range from jokes and dares to an attempt to destroy evidence. Arson is considered a serious offense in New York. Recently, a 26-year-old man was sentenced to 11 years in prison in Orange County after pleading guilty to arson, after setting fire to a home at a time in which the owners were sleeping. This was a shorter sentence than the 25-year sentence he faced if convicted for arson in the second degree.

The Offense of Arson

In order to constitute an arson offense, there must be an intentional act that starts a fire that causes damage. If the act was completed by accident, a person cannot be convicted of arson, as a crucial element is missing. This also applies to fires that do not cause damage to a person or property.

Types of Arson Charges

There are five different types of charges that can result from committing arson. Depending on the severity, the charge can be classified into five different categories:

Fifth degree arson is a misdemeanor offense. It covers any type of intentional property damage caused by an intentional fire or explosion if started without the consent of the property owner.

The remaining categories of arson are more serious, all of which are classified as felonies. Arson in the fourth degree may be charged to anyone who intentionally starts a fire or explosion that recklessly causes damage to a building or motor vehicle. Arson in the third degree is charged when an individual starts a fire with the intent of causing damage to a building or motor vehicle. The exact same requirement is present in second degree arson cases. However, in order to be charged with arson in the second degree, there is a requirement that a person is present in the building or motor vehicle and defendant knows or has reason to know a person is present based on the facts and circumstances of the act.

Finally, arson in the first degree is the most serious arson offense. It may be charged to any individual who intentionally damages a building or motor vehicle by:

  • placing or throwing an object capable of exploding in the structure;
  • setting an explosion or fire that causes serious injury to another individual; or
  • setting an explosion or fire for financial gain;

In order to constitute first degree arson any of the above actions must have been completed while another individual was present in the building. The individual who started the fire must have either known, or had reason to know, someone else was in the building.

Contact an Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with arson in the state of New York, contact Phillip J. Murphy, attorney at law. As a criminal defense attorney practicing the law for over 23 years, you can rest assured that you have found an experienced attorney. Attorney Murphy serves clients in New City, Clarkstown, Orangetown, Ramapo, Haverstraw, Stony Point, and Nyack. He also services the following counties: Rockland, Westchester, Orange and Putnam County.

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