Intentionally destroying the property of others by setting it on fire is considered an act of arson in many states, including Pennsylvania. Arson is a crime that is punished to different extents depending on how the arson is committed. It matters a lot if the arson destroys only property or if the arsonist also wanted to injure or kill people inside a property.
According to FindLaw, Pennsylvania law breaks down arson into different categories. A person who engages in the crime of reckless burning is starting a fire while recklessly endangering the property of someone else. Arson endangering property entails starting a fire with the intent to destroy property or recklessly endanger property. Arson endangering persons is when the arsonist sets a fire or an explosion that endangers the lives of human beings.
Arson can be charged as felonies in the first, second and third degrees. Third degree felonies carry lesser punishments of up to 7 years imprisonment and fines that can reach $15,000. Second degree felony arson could land a person in jail for up to 10 years and impose a maximum fine of $25,000. First degree felonies do not boost the fine but could add more years to a prison sentence, perhaps up to 20 years.
Arson can take other forms. Some people decide they want to destroy a historic building or structure, which prosecutors may charge as arson of historic resource. This crime is punishable as a second degree felony. Aggravated arson is charged when an arsonist intentionally burns a structure hoping to injure a person who is inside it. If someone dies as a result of the arson, a prosecutor may bring murder charges.
Since arson comes in various types, it is important to have legal representation to understand your options. Any factor can increase the severity of an arson charge, including if someone in a structure is hurt because of the arson or if a firefighter is injured while fighting an arson blaze. Because arson cases vary, the information in this article should only be read for education and not legal counsel.