Arson

Accusations of Arson are as serious as they come. If you or a loved is accused of this serious crimes, contact an experienced New York City arson defense attorney immediately.

A person commits arson when he intentionally damages the property of another without the other's consent by starting a fire or causing an explosion. If you are accused of this serious crime, contact a New York City arson crime lawyer immediately. Arson is codified in New York Penal Code Article 150. There are five degrees of Arson in New York. Arson, in its most basic form, is codified as Arson in the Fifth Degree and it is a class A misdemeanor. The degree of Arson increases as certain aggravating factors are met. Arson in the First Degree is a class A-1 Felony. The damage to the property need not be great to sustain a conviction. Even slight evidence of charring may be enough. Below is an explanation of the different degrees of Arson, what the government needs to prove to sustain a conviction, and what the applicable sanctions are. Arson, in all its degrees, is a serious crime. Contact me for a free consultation if you, or a loved one, is accused of any degree of Arson.

  • Arson in the First Degree

Arson in the First Degree is a very serious crime. It is codified in Penal Code Section 150.20. If a person is convicted of Arson in the First Degree, the minimum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment and the maximum period of incarceration is a term of 25 years to life. An indeterminate prison sentence in this context means that the court sets the minimum period of incarceration, but the the New York Department of Corrections determines how much of the potential life sentence the person must serve after he has served the minimum of period of incarceration.

There are four ways for a person to commit Arson in the First Degree.

For the first way, the government needs to prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally damaged a building (or motor vehicle) by causing an explosion or fire by an incendiary device propelled, thrown, or placed inside the building (or motor vehicle);
  2. another person, who was not a participant in the crime, was present in the building (or motor vehicle); and
  3. the person knew someone else was in the building (or motor vehicle), or the circumstances were such as to render the presence of such a person in the building (or motor vehicle) a reasonable possibility.

For the second way, the government needs to prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally damaged a building (or motor vehicle) by causing an explosion or a fire by means of an explosion;
  2. another person, who was not a participant in the crime, was present in the building (or motor vehicle); and
  3. the person knew someone else was in the building (or motor vehicle), or the circumstances were such as to render the presence of such a person in the building (or motor vehicle) a reasonable possibility.

For the third way, the government needs to prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally damaged a building (or motor vehicle) by causing an explosion or a fire which caused serious physical injury to another person who was not a participant in the crime;
  2. another person, who was not a participant in the crime, was present in the building (or motor vehicle); and
  3. the person knew someone else was in the building (or motor vehicle), or the circumstances were such as to render the presence of such a person in the building (or motor vehicle) a reasonable possibility.

For the fourth way, the government needs to prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally damaged a building (or motor vehicle) by causing an explosion or a fire with the expectation that or receipt of financial advantage or pecuniary profit;
  2. another person, who was not a participant in the crime, was present in the building (or motor vehicle); and
  3. the person knew someone else was in the building (or motor vehicle), or the circumstances were such as to render the presence of such a person in the building (or motor vehicle) a reasonable possibility.
  • Arson in the Second Degree

Arson in the Second Degree is a serious crime. It is codified in Penal Code Section 150.15. If a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of Arson in the Second Degree, the minimum period of incarceration is 5 years and the maximum is 25 years. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 8 years and the maximum is 25 years. If the person has been previously convicted of a violent felony within the past 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 10 years and the maximum period is 25 years. In all circumstances, the person is forced to be on parole between 2.5 to 5 years.

For the first way, the government to sustain a conviction for Arson in the Second Degree, it needs to prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally damaged a building (or motor vehicle) by starting a fire;
  2. another person, who was not a participant in the crime, was present in the building (or motor vehicle); and
  3. the person knew someone else was in the building (or motor vehicle), or the circumstances were such as to render the presence of such a person in the building (or motor vehicle) a reasonable possibility.
  • Arson in the Third Degree

Arson in the Third Degree is a serious crime. It is codified in Penal Code Section 150.10. Arson in the Third Degree is a class C felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class C (non-violent and non-drug) felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 5 - 15 years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 3 - 6 years and the maximum is 7 1/2 - 15 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the first way, the government to sustain a conviction for Arson in the Third Degree, it needs to prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally damaged a building (or motor vehicle) by starting a fire or causing an explosion; and
  2. the person did so intentionally.

There is an affirmative defense to Arson in the Third Degree. For this affirmative defense to be applicable, the accused must prove at trial the following three things. He must prove:

  1. No person other than the accused had a possessory or proprietary interest in the building (or motor vehicle);
  2. the accused's sole intent was to destroy or damage the building (or motor vehicle) for a lawful and proper purpose; and
  3. the accused had no reasonable ground to believe that his conduct might endanger the life or safety of another person or damage another building (or motor vehicle).
  • Arson in the Fourth Degree

Arson in the Fourth Degree is a serious crime. It is codified in Penal Code Section 150.05. Arson in the Fourth Degree is a class E felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class E (non-violent and non-drug) felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 1 1/3 - 4 years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 1 1/2 - 3 years and the maximum is 2 - 4 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the first way, the government to sustain a conviction for Arson in the Fourth Degree, it needs to prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally started a fire or caused an explosion; and
  2. in doing so, the person recklessly damaged a building (or motor vehicle).

  • Arson in the Fifth Degree

Arson in the Fifth Degree is a crime. It is codified in Penal Code Section 150.01. Arson in the Fifth Degree is a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail

For the first way, the government to sustain a conviction for Arson in the Fifth Degree, it needs to prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The government needs to prove:

  1. the person intentionally damaged the property of another without the other's consent; and
  2. the person did so by starting a fire or causing an explosion.

There are some terms of art that have their own legal definitions.

"Incendiary Device" means a breakable container designed to explode or produce uncontained combustion upon impact, containing flammable liquid and having a wick or a similar device capable of being ignited.

"Serious Physical Injury" means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

Any accusation of Arson is serious. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help. If you, or a loved one, is accused of this crime, do not hesitate to contact John Buza for a free consultation.