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Is Arson A Felony In New York? 2024

Is Arson A Felony In New York? 2024

Fire can cause significant damage to property and take the lives of those caught in it without an escape. Because of this danger, arson is taken very seriously as a crime and is paired with significant punishments. Defense against arson charges can be some of the most challenging criminal defense circumstances. It’s a highly technical subject, and anyone facing arson charges needs a legal team up to the challenge.

Is Arson A Felony In New York?

Fifth Degree Arson

A person is charged with fifth degree arson when, without the consent of the owner, they intentionally start a fire or explosion and damage another person’s property. This is a class A misdemeanor but can sometimes be plea bargained to a non-criminal offense with restitution for the damaged property. The maximum sentence for fifth degree arson is one year in jail.

Fourth Degree Arson

Fourth degree arson is where arson turns to a felony crime. Fourth degree arson occurs when someone is reckless with an intentional fire or starts an explosion, and that action leads to building or motor vehicle damage. This is a Class E felony which carries a maximum prison sentence of 16 to 48 months. However, it is also possible to receive probation of up to 5 years or a split sentence involving time in prison followed by probation and a conditional discharge.

Third Degree Arson

Third degree arson also deals with damage to a building or motor vehicle. However, in this case, the damage is considered to be the intentional result of the fire or explosion. Third degree arson is a class C felony and carries a maximum sentence of five to fifteen years and a minimum of one to three years for first-time offenders. Although prison time is mandatory, a judge may still choose to waive it if they decide that the sentence is not in the public interest and it would not serve justice.

Second Degree Arson

Second degree arson is the same as third degree with the addition of two elements:

  • -The building or vehicle that was intentionally damaged by fire or explosion was occupied by someone who was not a participant in the crime
  • -The defendant either knew of their presence or should have considered the potential of someone being there a reasonable possibility

Second degree arson is a class B felony and carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five years. The maximum sentence is 25 years. If, though, the crime is related to a domestic violence issue, the minimum sentence is to be three to six years with a maximum of 12 ½ to 25 years. After release from prison, supervision of two and a half years to five years must be included.

First Degree Arson

First degree arson is the same as second degree with one of three additional requirements being true:

  • -The explosion of fire is caused by an incendiary device or explosive that is propelled, placed, or thrown inside or near the building or motor vehicle, or
  • -The explosion causes serious physical injury to another person, or
  • -There is the expectation of financial advantage of pecuniary profit on the part of the person committing the arson

First degree arson is an A-1 felony. It carries a minimum sentence of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life. However, if the sentence is deemed to be a hate crime, the minimum sentence will be increased to 20 years. If the crime is determined to be related to terrorism, the only sentence available is life without parole.


Q: What Is the Penalty for Arson in New York?

A: The penalties for arson in New York can vary depending upon the degree of arson with which someone is convicted. It should be noted that the ability to pay restitution is often required. However, the ability to do so may help lessen jail or prison sentences. The prison time can be a maximum of one year for fifth degree misdemeanor arson up to life for felony first degree arson.

Q: What Determines What Degree of Arson Someone Is Charged With?

A: There are a few different elements that determine the degree of arson that a person is charged with, but the primary factors are:

  • -The kind of property damage
  • -The risk to other uninvolved parties
  • -Any harm that may have befallen other uninvolved parties
  • -Whether there were financial interests involved

Q: How Can You Defend Against Arson Charges?

A: Defending an arson charge can be particularly challenging. Because the nature of fire is a subject that can be complex, people can sometimes be easily swayed by the testimony of experts, even if there are holes in their testimony. It takes a skilled, experienced criminal defense attorney to pick apart their claims and demonstrate the flaws for the jury to understand. Some of the more common arson defense strategies include:

  • -Insufficient evidence
  • -Lack of proof of intent
  • -Natural causes
  • -Invalid “scientific” evidence

Q: What Does an Arson Defense Lawyer Do?

A: An arson defense lawyer will advocate on your behalf throughout the legal process. Where an arson defense lawyer can be particularly helpful is in handling the pre-trial investigation and using the information gathered to develop a defense against the charges. A lawyer can also help you understand if a plea bargain to a lesser charge may be a good option for you.

Fight Back on Arson Charges With the Legal Team You Need

Arson can be one of the most challenging crimes to defend. Prosecutors often rely on technical experts to put together intricate explanations as to how and why a fire is arson and connect that arson with the defendant. It takes a lawyer with a strong understanding of the subject matter and an awareness of the prosecution’s tactics. If you are facing arson charges, you need a lawyer and legal team that is prepared to take on these kinds of detailed, technical cases. At the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, we can be the legal team that gives you a fair chance in your arson case. Contact us to take a look at your case.

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