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What is the Law on Arson in Illinois and What are the Punishments for it?

A crime wherein an explosive or fire has been used to damage property typically falls under the umbrella of an Arson crime.

Illinois law clearly defines as to what is defined as arson, thereby omitting many other fire-related crimes. Arson crimes under section 720 ILCS 5/20-1 (a) are defined as:

  • Usage of fire or explosive material to damage a person's property (amounting to more than $150).
  • Usage of fire or explosive material to damage a person's property leading to insurance defrauds (amounting to more than $150).

Common motives of Arson in Illinois:

1. Concealing crimes
  • The primary goal of the arsonist is to ensure that no evidence or record is found against him/her.
  • Fire is set to cover up the crime scene related to burglary, murder or auto theft.
2. Revenge
  • Fire is set in retaliation towards someone for a wrongful doing (real or perceived).
3. Profit
  • Fire is set to eliminate debts, business competition or to gain a monetary advantage.
  • Typical examples of such a crime would be remodeling property or insurance fraud.
Illinois Arson Law

What does the law define under arson cost?

1. Direct Monetary impact:
  • Property destruction
  • Firefighting costs including supplies and manpower
  • Insurance coverage costs
Indirect impact:
  • Tax revenue impact
  • Increase in unemployment
  • Medical expenses (incurred to treat civilians and firefighters)
  • Disability costs
  • Increase in insurance
3. Human life

Arson fires endanger human life irrespective that the infrastructure was occupied or not at the time of the act. Such blazes are a major concern when there are people in the building or when an open field is ignited as the loss to human life is maximum in such cases.

Arson Law

Illinois’ special Arson Hotline

The Illinois Arson law offers all its residents to call a State Arson Investigator if:

  • There is huge monetary loss involved with the damaged property.
  • The incident has resulted in the loss of life or a serious injury.
  • Initial investigations have summed up the cause of the fire as being suspicious.
  • The initial investigative authorities have failed to determine the reason for the fire
  • The property in question is a federal or state property
  • If there seems to be a possible conflict of interest at the end of investigation authorities
  • Any other circumstances

Illinois Arson Award

In addition to providing the hotline, Illinois also has an Advisory Committee which holds the responsibilities for recognizing, awarding and encouraging the residents in arson investigations or possible arrests.

Arson Law Illinois

The state of Illinois vs. Arsonists

A felony is said to have been occurred when the State is able to prove that fire was actually arson. As a part of the investigation, a detailed written report is submitted by the fire marshall or an investigating officer. Trials usually take place in the presence of a jury with the state building a case based on circumstantial evidence.

The case that the State will typically prepare is a foolproof one to avoid any questions from even a single juror. A conviction may result in the following penalties:

  • 3 – 7 years of imprisonment for a class 2 felony
  • 4 – 15 years of imprisonment for a class 1 felony (involving arson to a residential place)
  • 6 – 30 years of imprisonment for a class X felony (aggravated arson)

Preventing Arson

The office of the State of Illinois helps residents preventing possible arson with the following guidelines:

  • An unoccupied building to have all doors and windows locked.
  • Liquids like paints and gasoline to be stored in places with locks or in garages and away from heating furnaces.
  • Any suspicious activities around the buildings and infrastructure to be reported to the authorities immediately.
  • Contacting the fire department authorities if any person has any knowledge of the arson-related crime.

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