If you cause damage to any structure by intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion, then you would have committed the crime of arson. There are a number of different arson crimes in the New York criminal code. The particular one that you will be charged with depends on a number of factors, including whether or not the fire was set intentionally or recklessly, and whether or not people were inside the building or structure when the fire was set. You would have committed the crime of arson in the fourth degree under New York Penal Law § 135.55 if you recklessly damage a building, a structure or a vehicle by intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion.
In the case of the People v. Self, 2010 NY Slip Op 6189 (N.Y. App. Div., 2010), the defendant Terry Self and a man named Jason Savoie drove to the home of one Walter Albino. Savoie and Self knocked on Mr. Albino’s door. When they didn’t get a response, Savoie took up a gasoline container that was on the porch and poured its contents out onto the porch. Self then ignited the gasoline. Mr. Albino saw the flames and quickly responded by putting out the fire with snow. Self was subsequently convicted of the crime of arson in the fourth degree.
Offenses that are Related
Arson in the Fifth Degree: New York Penal Law § 150.01
Arson in the Third Degree: New York Penal Law § 150.10
Arson in the Second Degree: New York Penal Law § 150.15
Arson in the First Degree: New York Penal Law § 150.20
A possible defense against a charge of arson in the fourth degree is that you did not intentionally set a fire, rather you lit it by accident. If the fire was truly an accident, then the prosecutor will have a hard time convicting you of arson in the fourth degree.
Due to the fact that the crime of arson in the fourth degree is categorized as a class E felony the maximum possible prison sentence you could be looking at for this crime is 4 years. Particularly if you have no prior criminal convictions, the judge could opt to sentence you to a probation term of 5 years in lieu of sending you to jail. On top of that, there may be financial repercussions for being convicted of arson. The judge may additionally order you to pay a fine to the court and also pay monetary restitution to the victim.
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