What is the Law on Arson in New York and its Punishments?
Arson is a criminal act where a person deliberately sets fire to a property with the intent of harm and damage. There are various degrees of arson, based on which the sentence to be given to the criminal is decided.
The New York State’s fire department recognizes the degree of arson through the following criteria:
- Whether or not a person occupied the property when the fire was set
- Whether or not a person was severely injured
- Whether or not the fire was caused deliberately, recklessly or was accidental
The property in the above criteria can be either a building or a vehicle (or both).
There five degrees of arson as per the New York Arson Law, where first-degree arson is the most severe arson type, and the fifth-degree arson is the least serious. Let us have a look at the five arson charges.
As mentioned earlier, arson in the first degree is the most serious crime in the New York criminal code. First-degree arson is a class A-I felony and is treated similarly to first-degree kidnapping or murder of first degree. The penal 150.20 of New York Penal Law states that a person is guilty of arson in the first degree if they intentionally caused damage to a property through fire or explosive when:
- The fire or explosion is caused by an incendiary (combustible) device or an explosive.
- The fire or explosion was set with the intention of monetary gain.
- The fire or explosion was set while knowing that a person was present in the property.
- The fire or explosion causes serious physical harm to another person
Penalty: Arson in the first degree is class A-I felony, and the convict may be sentenced to prison for a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 40 years.
Second Degree Arson in New York:
The arson in the second degree is class B felony. As per the New York Penal Law § 150.15, a person can be convicted of second-degree arson if they have intentionally caused fire or explosion to property and,
- Another person who is unrelated to the crime is present at the property,
- The person knows that the property is occupied.
Penalty: The second-degree arsonist, once convicted, will face a prison term up to 25 years. Even if the convict has no previous charges, they will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison.
The arson in the third degree is class C felony. The convict is charged under the New York Penal Law § 150.10 if they have caused fire or explosion to a property for unlawful gains, even if they are the owner of that property. However, if a person has caused fire or explosion to their property for lawful purposes, they will not be charged.
Penalty: A person convicted for third-degree arson can be sentenced for a maximum of 15 years and a minimum of 1 year in prison. Apart from serving their sentence, they may have to pay a fine and compensate the victims.Fourth Degree Arson in New York:
Arson in the fourth degree is class E felony. As per the New York Penal Law § 150.05, arson in the fourth degree is an act of causing fire or explosion intentionally or due to reckless actions. The main factor here is that there was malicious intent behind creating the fire, which damaged the property to some extent.
Penalty: The penalty for arson in the fourth degree is a maximum prison term of 4 years or a probation period of 4 years (if convicted for the first time). The convict may also be ordered by the judge to pay a fine as well as compensate the victims for damage to property.
Fifth Degree Arson in New York:
According to The New York Penal Law § 150.01, a person who has intentionally caused fire or explosion to another person’s property without their consent, will be charged for arson in the fifth degree. However, if the person has accidentally lit the fire or owns the property, they cannot be charged for fifth-degree arson.
Penalty: Arson in the fifth degree is a class A misdemeanor. The convict can be either sentenced to a prison term of maximum one year or a probation term of 3 years. They may also be ordered to pay a fine as well as compensate the victims.