Arson

The crime of arson applies to individuals who are accused of setting fires or causing explosions. The most serious arson charge is an A-1 Felony and is a serious a crime as a murder charge, while a minor arson charge is only a misdemeanor.

Arson cases are usually handled by specialized officers, in New York City they are investigated and arrests are made by Fire Marshalls who are members of the Fire Department of New York. And many District Attorney Offices have specialized units and highly-trained prosecutors who exclusively handle arson cases. Therefore, it is imperative that a person facing an arson case is represented by a criminal attorney who has experience in these complicated cases. Dietrich P. Epperson has defended, investigated, and (as a former assistant district attorney) prosecuted arson cases in New York City and in Long Island.

In New York, Article 150 of the Penal Law deals exclusively with arson charges. There are 5 levels of severity: (1) Arson in the First Degree under Penal Law Section 150.20, (2) Arson in the Second Degree under Penal Law Section 150.15, (3) Arson in the Third Degree under Penal Law Section 150.10, (4) Arson in the Fourth Degree under Penal Law Section 150.05, and (5) Arson in the Fifth Degree under Penal Law Section 150.01. The crime of Arson has its own legal terms and definitions, and these are found under Penal Law Section 150.00.

Arson in the Fifth Degree

Arson in the Fifth Degree is an A Misdemeanor in New York. The minimum punishment is an alternative sentence where a person can avoid jail time, and the maximum punishment is 1 year jail. Arson in the Fifth Degree can be charged when

  • A person intentionally damages another’s property by intentionally starting a fire or an explosion

Arson in the Fourth Degree

Arson in the Fourth Degree is an E Felony in New York. The minimum punishment is 1 to 3 years jail and the maximum punishment is 1.3 years to 4 years jail. There is also the possibility (under extenuating circumstances) that a judge can impose an alternative sentence where the accused can get less jail time, or possibly no jail time at all. Arson in the Fourth Degree can be charged when

  • A person recklessly damages a building or motor vehicle by intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion

Arson in the Third Degree

Arson in the Third Degree is a C Felony in New York. The minimum punishment is 1 to 3 years jail, and the maximum punishment is 5 to 15 years jail. There is also the possibility (under extenuating circumstances) that a judge can impose an alternative sentence where the accused can get less jail time, or possibly no jail time at all. Arson in the Third Degree can be charged when

  • A person intentionally damages a building or motor vehicle by starting a fire or explosion

Arson in the Second Degree

Arson in the Second Degree is a B violent felony in New York. The minimum punishment for this crime is 5 years jail and the maximum punishment is 25 years jail. Arson in the Second Degree can be charged when

  • A person intentionally damages a building or motor vehicle by starting a fire
  • AND someone was present in the vehicle or building at the time of the fire
  • AND the person setting the fire knew there was a reasonable possibility that someone was in the vehicle or building

Arson in the First Degree

Arson in the First Degree is an A-1 felony in New York. The minimum punishment for this crime is 15 years to life, and the maximum punishment is 25 years to life. As noted above, this is the same severity as a murder charge. In simple terms, Arson in the First Degree can be charged under the following scenario:

  • A person intentionally damages a building or a motor vehicle by causing an explosion or fire
  • AND either
    • it was caused by with an explosive or incendiary device,
    • OR someone besides the accused gets seriously injured
    • OR the explosion or fire was caused with goal of getting a financial benefit,
  • AND someone was present in the vehicle or building at the time of the fire
  • AND the person setting the fire knew there was a reasonable possibility that someone was in the vehicle or building