Defense for Arson Charges in Pennsylvania
Arson is a serious criminal offense in Pennsylvania. If convicted, you could face severe criminal penalties, including jail or prison time, steep fines, and more. Additionally, you could be left with irreparable damage to your reputation, making it extremely difficult to obtain housing, get a job, and return to your normal, everyday life.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with or arrested for arson, it is important that you reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, we provide aggressive defense for those accused of all types of arson-related offenses. Led by Attorney van der Veen, widely recognized as one of the area’s leading criminal defense attorneys, our Philadelphia arson attorneys are prepared to fight tirelessly for you and your rights.
Types of Arson Offenses in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law defines several different types of offenses as arson.
- Intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion, or hiring someone to do either of these acts, that recklessly places another person in danger of injury or death
- A fire or explosion that causes the death of another person, including firefighters or police, regardless of a person’s intention
- Intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion that damages property with the intention of collecting insurance or for another illegal purpose
- Intentionally or recklessly starting a fire that places a person or property in danger, even if no actual damage occurs
- Failing to take reasonable measures to control a fire when a person is able to do so without putting themselves at risk
- Possessing, manufacturing, or transporting explosive or incendiary materials
While all of these offenses are considered crimes in Pennsylvania, some are more severe than others. The penalties associated with the offenses have varying degrees of severity.
Penalties for Arson in Pennsylvania
Most arson offenses in Pennsylvania are considered felonies and as such, come with harsh penalties for those convicted.
Below, we have listed some of the possible penalties for different arson offenses in Pennsylvania:
- First-Degree Felony Arson: Convictions for a first-degree felony carry a sentence of up to 20 years in state prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.
- Second-Degree Felony Arson: Second-degree felony offenses carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and the same maximum fine of $25,000.
- Third-Degree Felony Arson: If the arson is considered a third-degree felony, the sentence is up to 7 years in state prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Aggravated arson is an elevated arson charge. This charge is brought when police suspect the arson was committed knowing that someone would likely suffer harm as a result. This charge has a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in prison if someone is actually injured in the fire.
First-Degree Felony Arson
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.
- The person starts the fire with the intention of destroying or damaging the inhabited building or occupied structure of another person.
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.
Additionally, 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. It is a first-degree murder charge if the fire or explosion was set with the intent of causing 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 a 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. 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
- 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