As a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I defend persons who have been accused of committing the crime of arson. In Pennsylvania, a conviction for arson can result in serious consequences including jail time and other penalties. In this article, I explain the crime of arson in Pennsylvania, the penalties for arson, and what to do if you’re accused of arson.

Pennsylvania Statutory Definition of Arson

In Pennsylvania, the definition of arson can be found in Title 18 Article C Chapter 33 that defines arson as:

…recklessly place another person in danger of death or bodily injury, including firefighters, police officers or other person actively engaged in fighting the fire…committing the act with the purpose of destroying or damaging an inhabited building or occupied structure of another.

What are the Degrees of Arson Under Pennsylvania Law?

First Degree Arson

Arson endangering another person by intentionally starting a fire or cause an explosion, or you pay someone to start a fire or cause an explosion and recklessly place people in danger of death or injury. The penalties for arson vary based on the intent and severity. If a fire is set that endangers another person, you risk a felony of the first degree; federal charges may be applied as well as the state charges.

Second Degree Arson

  • If the fire or explosion endangers only the property, and the intent to destroy or damage the unoccupied building to collect insurance or for another illegal purpose.
  • If the fire or explosion causes a death, including firefighters or police, regardless of intent you can be guilty of murder in the second degree.

Third Degree Arson

The destruction or damaged personal property with a value exceeding $5,000, or if the property is a car, motorcycle, airplane or motorboat.

  • Intentionally start a fire that endangers a person or property whether or not the damage actually occurs.
  • Little to no reasonable measures taken to control a fire where there no substantial risk to yourself, the failure to report a dangerous fire or you don’t give a prompt fire alarm, you face a misdemeanor of the first degree.
  • Manufacture and/or transport an incendiary device.

What are the Penalties of Arson in Pennsylvania?

  1. First Degree – 25 years to life, if no death is involved.  Life without the possibility of parole, should someone die in the fire or explosion.
  2. Second Degree – No more than 10 years in prison
  3. Third Degree – No more than 7 years in prison.

What Do I Do If I Am Accused of Arson?

If you are accused of arson, do NOT discuss what happened with the police even if it is to claim that you’re innocent. Like other criminal charges, you shouldn’t talk to law enforcement or prosecutors without having your own attorney present. So, if a police officer tries to question you, ask to speak to a lawyer and politely refuse to answer any questions.

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney for Arson Charges

If you’ve been accused of the crime of arson, contact me today for a FREE consultation. I’ll review your case to determine what defenses there may be to your charge such as whether the fire was accidental, whether there is a question of damage, or whether there is an issue of mistaken identity.