Two were recently killed in a Philadelphia fire when a building collapsed on the 2200 block of North Colorado Street, according to Fox News. One victim included a firefighter who was pinned under debris when the building collapsed. Two other firefighters were injured battling blazes that lasted for almost two hours. While no news outlets have reported that the cause was arson, the investigation is still pending. When arson causes a fatality, additional punishment is added to an already hefty felony offense.
First Degree Felony, Second Degree Murder, and First Degree Murder Charges
Under Pennsylvania Title 18 Article C, it is a first degree felony if an individual intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion, helps commit either of those acts, or pays another person to do so when any of the following occur:
- It recklessly places others who fight the fire in danger of bodily injury or death. This includes but is not limited to firefighters, police, and others; or
- The person starts the fire with the intention of destroying or damaging the inhabited building or occupied structure of another person’s.
Imprisonment may be up to 40 years if the arson causes bodily injury to a firefighter, police officer, or other person engaged in fighting the fire, or if there is bodily injury caused to a civilian. And, the felony offense is that of a second degree murder charge if the fire or explosion ends up killing any person, including those engaged in fighting the fire. And, it is a first degree murder charge if the fire or explosion was set with the intent of causing a death.
Historic Resource Arson
Not all buildings are considered equal in the eyes of the law. As such, it is a second degree felony for an individual to intentionally start a fire or cause an explosion on an historic property, or to pay another person to do so. Moreover, if an individual starts the fire or explosion with the intent of killing another, the first degree murder charge carries a death or life imprisonment charge without parole. And, a second degree murder charge will include a life imprisonment charge without parole.
Arson that Endangers Property
It is a second degree felony to intentionally start a fire or explosion on the defendant’s or another’s property when any of the following occur:
- There is intent to destroy or damage a building or unoccupied structure that belongs to another person;
- The fire or explosion places an inhabited building or occupied structure belonging to another person in danger of destruction or damage; or
- There is intent to destroy or damage any property, be it the defendant’s property or another’s property, with the hope of collecting insurance damages.
You Need to Call an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
No matter what type of arson you have been charged with or are under investigation for, you need to call an attorney immediately. We urge you to contact the experienced Philadelphia arson lawyers at van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin today for aggressive and professional defense.