Arson Law Pennsylvania
Arson is a felony that is generally classified as a crime where a person intentionally burns almost any kind of structure. This includes setting fire to another’s dwelling, forest land, contents of a dwelling, or any other property. States recognize differing degrees of arson based on criteria such as whether the structure was occupied or whether it was intended as a form of insurance fraud.
The charge of arson also extends to a person who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of property. Many states also include in this charge the offender’s property, however definitions vary between states.
In Pennsylvania, a series of arson investigations in Coatesville from 2007 to 2009 led to legislators drafting Senate Bill 903. This bill creates a new Pennsylvania criminal charge of “aggravated arson.” It increases criminal penalties for arson and defined mandatory sentencing for those convicted of aggravated arson.
The new criminal charge of aggravated arson would be a first degree felony. A person could be convicted under this new charge if they:
- Starts the fire themselves
- Pay someone else to start the fire
- Helps another start a fire in an occupied structure
- Had the intent to injure another by lighting a fire
Those convicted in Pennsylvania of Aggravated Arson would face a minimum 10-year prison sentence if the victim of the fire was a protected person such as a police officer or firefighter. It would carry a 5-year minimum sentence if a civilian becomes injured.
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Michael N. Kotik, Esq. (PA, NJ)