Like any law currently on the books, the crime of arson might not be as simple as it sounds. This is especially true because the extent of the damage might not be apparent at first glance. There’s a difference between setting fire to a single tree in the middle of the forest versus burning someone’s home down. How the crime of arson is treated also depends on the region where the crime is committed, and other factors that may determine the legal outcome of arson involve degree of severity.
Usually, firefighters called to the scene will be able to quickly determine whether or not the fire was accidental or intentional. This is because most arsonists will use an accelerant to help feed the fire.
First of all, the crime of arson assumes you deliberately and/or maliciously set a fire with the intention to damage property. This can include privately owned homes, vehicles, or other property, but it can further extend to government parks or forests. If you set fire to a home that has been abandoned, you’ve still committed arson. If the fire you set was accidental, then you may not be charged with arson. In such a case, it’s important you find yourself an experienced lawyer to help you navigate the complicated laws that will help govern your case to conclusion.
It’s also worth noting that if arson results in the death of another, the perpetrator will likely be charged with murder. Sometimes peoples think they can circumvent the law by burning their own property in an attempt to collect insurance payouts, but an arson charge still applies.
The degree of severity is usually divided into several classes of intent. First-degree arson generally refers to the setting of a fire in an occupied building, whether that building has one or more occupants. This charge is more likely when someone inside a building has been injured or killed as a result of the blaze. Second-degree arson results from the burning of an unoccupied building. If a building has been abandoned or is not in use, then an arsonist will likely be charged in the third degree. There are other degrees depending on where one lives.
In addition to the degree of severity, other labels may be used to categorize the crime. Arson may be charged as a misdemeanor, a felony, or prosecuted as criminal mischief. Some areas differentiate between accidental, reckless, and intentional setting of fires. This is why fire safety is so important; if you’re not careful, you may be charged with reckless burning of property because of your negligence.