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NY Penal Law § 150.15: Arson in the Second Degree

June 29, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Arson is the criminal offense by which one intentionally damages a structure by the use of fire or explosives. For the purposes of this statute, the term “structure” can encompass 

  1. a residential building, 
  2. A commercial building, 
  3. a vehicle, or 
  4. a watercraft that is used as overnight lodging or that is used to house a business. 

There are five different degrees of arson offenses in the New York criminal code.  The crime of arson in the second degree is the second most serious of the five. Pursuant to New York Penal Law § 150.15, you could be charged and  prosecuted for arson in the second degree if:

  1. You intentionally damage or destroy a structure by setting it on fire or by causing an explosion,
  2. The building or vehicle you burned or blew up was occupied at the time that you caused the fire or explosion, and
  3. You had reason to believe that the building was occupied at the time of the occurrence.

For Example

In the matter of the People v. Hendricksen, 2011 NY Slip Op 30880 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 2011), the defendant, Mr. Pierre Hendricksen, entered a basement apartment where his ex-wife lived.  Knowing that people were somewhere inside the building, he set the apartment on fire by igniting a mattress with matches. The building contained a number of other apartments that were also occupied on the day that Mr. Hendricksen entered the building. Hendricksen was arrested and subsequently convicted of the crime of arson in the second degree. The second degree arson charge was valid on the basis of the fact that other people were in the building at the time that the defendant set the fire and also the fact that the defendant had reason to be aware that other people were in the building.

Offenses that are Related

Arson in the fifth degree: New York Penal Law § 150.01

Arson in the fourth degree: New York Penal Law § 150.05

Arson in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 150.10

Arson in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 150.20

Possible Defenses

One key defense against a charge of arson is the second degree would entail convincing the court that the defendant did not have reason to believe that the building was occupied by anyone at the time the fire was set.

In addition, another plausible defense is to put forth that even if the defendant should have known that there was a possibility that someone might be in the building at the time, there was, it turned out, no one in the building when the fire or explosion took place

The Sentence

The crime of arson in the second degree is categorized as a class B felony. You could be sent to prison for as long as 25 years. Moreover, it is also classified as a violent felony offense. What this means to you is that even if you don’t have any prior felony convictions, if you are convicted of arson in the second degree, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years behind bars.

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