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Penalties for Arson in Texas

Since fire can rapidly cause damage to property and vegetation, not to mention risk human life, people have to be extremely careful when cooking, smoking, lighting bonfires and campfires.

A simple mistake when handling fire can lead to devastating damage and loss of life, which is why all activities related to fire are strictly controlled. That being said, the state has established laws that criminalize “intentional” and “reckless” behaviors involving fire, and these offenses are known as “arson.”

Arson is criminalized under Section 28.02 of the Texas Penal Code. A person commits arson if he or she starts a fire or causes an explosion with the intention of damaging or destroying land or property knowing that: 1) it is near a city or town, 2) insured against property destruction (insurance fraud), 3) there is a mortgage on the property, or 4) it is located on property that belongs to someone else.

Texas’ arson statute applies to the following types of land and property:

  • Vegetation
  • A fence
  • A structure
  • A home
  • A vehicle
  • Open-spaced land
  • A habitation

Additionally, a person commits arson if he or she is reckless about setting a fire or causing an explosion and it endangers the life of another, the safety or property of another person.

Note: The defendant has a defense if he or she obtained a permit or written authorization, which was in accordance with a city ordinance and allowed them to set a fire or cause an explosion.

Arson is typically a felony of the second degree, but it can be charged as a felony of the first degree if:

  • Someone was injured by the fire or explosion,
  • Someone was killed because of the fire or explosion, or
  • The property that the defendant intended to destroy was a home, or a place of assembly, or a church.

A felony of the first degree is punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and life in prison, whereas a felony of the second degree is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Explosions Involving Controlled Substances

A person also commits arson if he or she recklessly causes a fire or an explosion while they are manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance, such as methamphetamines and the explosion damages a vehicle, building, or habitation.

Generally, offenses involving meth lab explosions are prosecuted as felonies of the third degree, or state jail felonies depending on whether anyone was injured or killed by the explosion.

Are you being accused of arson? If so, you could face felony charges, a hefty fine and years behind bars in a state prison. For the aggressive defense representation you need, contact our Plano criminal defense firm!

Categories: Arson