What is the Law on Arson in Mississippi and What are the Punishments for it?
The US federal law and the Mississippi law clearly state that when fire, burns or explosives are used to burn or destroy property with malicious intent, the same is regarded as arson. Any person who is directly involved in the act, or is an accomplice to the arsonist will also be guilty of this crime.
Degree of arson and their subsequent penalties in Mississippi:
- First Degree: A malicious and willful act of causing the fire to a place of worship or school building is considered as a first-degree arson. An aide in procuring an accelerant for this purpose or encouraging the arsonist to indulge in the act is also a crime and the person will be tried for first-degree arson.
In addition to this, a person who merely observes the act of arson happening in these places (irrespective that they are occupied or vacant) and who willfully fails to notify the fire department or raise an alarm will also be considered as guilty. Such an individual will also be tried for a felony under the law.
Penalties – Imprisonment between 2 – 10 years. The arsonist will also have to bear the restitution cost of the damaged property along with three times the cost of damage.
- Second Degree: A malicious and willful act of causing the fire to any other buildings which may or may not belong to him (as described under Section 97-17-1or Section 97-17-3) will be charged with second-degree arson. An aide in procuring an accelerant for this purpose or encouraging the arsonist to indulge in the act is also a crime, and the person will be tried for the same degree.
Penalties – Imprisonment between 1 – 10 years.
- Third Degree - A malicious and willful act of causing the fire to personal property will be charged for third-degree arson.
Penalties – Imprisonment between 1 – 3 years.
- Fourth degree - A malicious and willful act of causing a fire to personal property or building which is not classified in the above criteria, will be charged for fourth-degree arson. An aide in procuring an accelerant for this purpose or encouraging the arsonist to indulge in the act is also a crime, and the person will be tried for the same degree. It is essential that the prosecution in this degree establishes that the arsonist intended to defraud someone or an institution (such as insurance company) to gain monetary profits.
Penalties – Imprisonment between 5 – 20 years.
A fire is responded to by the fire department who under the law is also required to determine what instigated it. A state fire marshal is required to look into those matters wherein the fire has resulted in:
- Huge monetary impact
- Loss of human life or injury
- When the property destroyed was a federal or a school building
The marshal will also solicit the help of canines if there is any suspicion of chemicals or accelerants involved that may have been used to start the fire. In such cases, samples from the crime scene are required to be sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab for forensic analysis. Such cases (if unsolved) are kept open until someone is charged for the crime. Mississippi Arson law does not bear any statute of limitations.
Reward program and community awareness program:
Any tips or information leading to the arrest of a convict qualifies for a cash reward of $1000 under the State Fire Marshal’s Arson Reward Program.
Additionally, the law also lists some awareness tips for its residents, which reduce the risks of becoming an arson victim. These are:
- Install and sound alarms in case of treats
- Ensure that the buildings have both external and internal locking system
- Sufficient lighting inside and outside the infrastructures