Get Swept Up in the Moment? You Could Still Face Arson Charges
There are many reasons fires can occur. In fact, many fires are caused by accidents or circumstances out of the control of people. In those cases, it’s often dismissed as an unfortunate accident. However, when a fire is purposefully set, then it’s a serious crime: arson.
Over 100 cases involving arson are still being investigated from the unrest that occurred in Minnesota last summer. Local businesses were often the targets of these fires. Law enforcement has vowed to catch those who were involved and bring them to justice.
Arson is a crime that is taken very seriously in Minnesota, no matter the circumstance. If your actions meet the standards to be charged with arson, you will be.
Here’s what you need to know about this crime in Minnesota, plus the penalties that can be faced.
Arson in Minnesota
The state of Minnesota divides arson into five separate degrees. They are:
Fifth Degree Arson
This occurs when someone intentionally causes any personal property to be burned. It’s a misdemeanor charge.
Fourth Degree Arson
This level of offense takes place when someone causes to be burned, burns, or sets fire to personal property in public housing or in a residential building. This offense is chosen if no higher level of arson was committed. It is a gross misdemeanor.
Third Degree Arson
This level of the offense occurs when someone intentionally damages or destroys the personal or real property of another. The property involved in the crime has to be worth at least $300 but not more than $1,000.
Second Degree Arson
This offense is committed when someone intentionally damages or destroys a building in a way that doesn’t qualify as first-degree arson — or they intentionally destroy or damage personal or real property that is valued at $1,000 or more.
This occurs when someone intentionally or unlawfully damages or destroys:
- Dwellings – even if no one is in them
- Buildings connected to a dwelling
- Other buildings if they know someone is inside when setting the fire
- Any other building where a flammable material or accelerant is used to start the fire
Penalties for Arson in Minnesota
As is the case with most other crimes, the higher the degree of charge, the more severe the penalty if found guilty.
The penalties associated with arson are:
- Fifth Degree – Being found guilty of this level of crime can result in as many as three months in jail and fines of as much as $1,000.
- Fourth degree – As a gross misdemeanor, this level of arson is punishable by as many as 12 months in prison and fines of as much as $3,000.
- Third-degree – This felony can send a person to prison for as many as five years and make them responsible for paying fines of as much as $10,000.
- Second degree – Arson at this level will result in a prison sentence of as many as 10 years and fines upwards of $20,000.
- First-degree – The most serious offense, first-degree arson can result in up to 20 years behind bars – plus fines of as much as $35,000 if a person was present inside the building when it was set ablaze.
Arson is not a crime to be taken lightly. If you’re accused of it, it’s vital to understand the charges against you and your rights in court to ensure a fair outcome in your case.
About the Author:
Andrew T. Poole is a Minnesota native who has served in the Army for more than 18 years and is currently a JAG lawyer in the Army Reserves in addition to serving as a partner at LaCourse, Poole & Envall. He has handled thousands of criminal and family law cases over the course of his career and has a firm belief that all hardworking Minnesotans should be entitled to the best possible legal counsel. Mr. Poole boasts a 10/10 Superb rating on Avvo, is Lead Counsel rated, and has been recognized multiple times by SuperLawyers, National Trial Lawyers, and others for his work.