Arizona Arson Charges
Arizona has criminal statutes prohibiting arson, which is generally defined as causing damage to a property or structure via fire or an explosion. This destruction can either be caused knowingly or recklessly, and there are differing penalties for each. No matter what, however, this crime is taken very seriously as it can lead to immense property damage and loss of life. Arson is not an incredibly common crime, but it still happens with regularity, in the City of Phoenix alone there were reported arsons in the first two quarters of 2022.
What Arizona Law Says
Before diving into the criminal penalties, A.R.S. § 13-1701 provides some important definitions. Firstly, damage means “any physical or visual impairment of any surface,” a very loose definition. Second, a structure is, “any building, object, vehicle, watercraft, aircraft, or place with sides and a floor, used for lodging, business, transportation, recreation, or storage.” Property is defined as anything with value someone owns that is not a structure. Lastly, an occupied structure means a structure where one or more humans are or are likely to be present or near enough to cause them danger. All these definitions are expansive, something as little as a microwave fire burning a countertop and causing it “physical or visual impairment” could end up being classified as arson.
Knowing Arson of a Structure or Property
The first statute, A.R.S. § 13-1703 governs the knowing arson of unoccupied structures. Arson of an unoccupied structure has a base severity level of a class 4 felony. Class 4 felony arson only occurs when the damaged property had a value of over one thousand dollars. There is a less severe form of arson under this statute, being damage to a structure worth between one hundred and one thousand dollars. This form of arson is only a class 5 felony, but this is very uncommon as most property and structures are easily worth more than one thousand dollars. This brings the typical punishment for a first-time offender to be one to three years and nine months in prison.
Knowing Arson of an Occupied Structure or Property
When this crime occurs in an occupied structure, the associated penalties with it only increase in severity. The statute A.R.S. § 13-1704 provides that knowingly and unlawfully damaging a structure with a fire or explosion leads to a class 2 felony. This is a huge jump up in severity due to the lives at stake in this form of arson. A first-time offender of arson of an occupied building could be looking at three to twelve and a half years in prison. Another type of intentional arson of an occupied building is found in A.R.S. § 13-1705. This statute governs the arson of an occupied jail or prison facility which causes damage to the facility. This is a class 4 felony, meaning a possible punishment of one to three years and nine months in prison. Curiously, this makes it closer to arson of unoccupied property, even though jails and prisons are clearly occupied buildings.
Reckless arson is a step down in severity from the aforementioned statutes because it is more of an accidental or negligent act as opposed to an intentional one. Under A.R.S. § 13-1702, reckless burning is defined as recklessly causing a fire or explosion which results in damage to an occupied structure, a structure, a wildland, or property. This calls to mind the many different gender reveal disasters in the last few years that would fit neatly in this statute. Under any of these categories, the punishment is the same, a class 1 misdemeanor. A class 1 misdemeanor can result in six months in jail or three years of probation.
Get Your Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney to Fight Your Arson Charges. Litwak Law Group’s criminal defense attorneys pride themselves on fighting aggressively and professionally for the constitutional rights and freedoms of their clients. Should you be charged with arson charges in Arizona, give us a call today.