Arson is the crime of purposefully or maliciously setting a fire or burning any kind of structure or building for an unlawful or improper reason. According to the law, explosions are also considered to be arson. There are different degrees of arson that vary by state. Arson is categorized into 1st degree (homes, schools, churches), 2nd degree (unoccupied structures, vehicles), and 3rd degree (personal property). Arson is a crime against possession, not ownership. Therefore, it is possible for an individual to be charged committing arson against themselves (for example, burning their own house). Arson involving damage to federal property is usually prosecuted in federal court, as is anything involving interstate or foreign transport. Some states distinguish between “sooting” (smoke damage), “scorching” (blistering), “charring” (external surfaces destroyed), etc. Also, some states also consider setting a fire to be arson, even if no burning occurs. If a fire takes place inside a house, it can only be considered arson if the damaged item is a permanent fixture, such as a sink, light fixture or other appliances. Personal property such as furniture, clothing, or documents does not qualify as permanent fixtures.
Arsonists can have many different motives such as insurance fraud, vandalism, domestic violence and revenge. Some individuals may even try to use arson to commit a murder. The seriousness of the charge is dependent on factors such as whether there were people in the building at the time of the crime. Arson, which is already considered a felony in most states, can be raised to felony-murder if the crime results in a death. For example, if the defendant is convicted of burning down a building and there was a person who died as a result of that fire, the defendant is guilty of first-degree murder. State statutes do not categorize arsons in terms of motive. However, some states reserve their harshest punishments for arson related to insurance fraud. Also, some states have the offense of "aggravated arson" which is similar to felony murder, but carries additional penalties if a firefighter gets injured while trying to put out the fire.
The police and firefighters ascertain the conditions to be considered for arson. They also take into account things like the amount of damage and the kind of structure. The only thing needed for an arson charge is proof that the individual deliberately started the fire. The criminal intent with arson is intent or purpose to start a fire, even if there's no intent to burn a structure.
Arson is a serious charge. The penalties can be severe, and there is little opportunity to get off with a warning. However, an experienced criminal attorney can get you the best possible results.