Understanding arson charges can be complex because of the various classifications and degrees. You might be wondering what first degree arson is when compared to fourth degree arson. Nevada defines arson as intentionally setting fire to property. This includes anything that is the property of the person who is setting the fire. The law is written this way to prevent dangerous situations from forming and to discourage people from destroying property for insurance claims.
The four degrees of arson are:
- First-degree arson: Burning buildings or occupied vehicles.
- Second-degree arson: Burning abandoned buildings.
- Third-degree arson: Burning unoccupied vehicles or vegetation.
- Fourth-degree arson: Burning or attempting to set fire to any of the property listed in the other degrees.
Arson vs Aggravated Arson
Although Nevada state law doesn’t explicitly state the difference between arson and aggravated arson, there are several commonly-accepted differences. Arson occurs when a property is damaged by an intentional fire. Aggravated arson occurs when a fire is set intentionally and a person was inside the building, or a person was injured, or a first responder was injured.
Penalties for First Degree Arson
If you or someone you care about has been charged with arson, one of the first questions you’ll ask is, “How long do you have to go to jail for arson?” First degree arson penalties are the largest, and the sentences decrease as the degrees become less severe.
First degree arson is a category B felony and is punishable by:
- 2–15 years in prison
- Up to $15,000 in fines
Second degree arson is a category B felony and is punishable by:
- 1–10 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Third degree and fourth degree arson are category D felonies and are punishable by:
- 1–4 years in prison
- Up to $5,000 in fines
Defenses for Arson Charges
In order to be charged with arson, it needs to be proved that you were responsible for the intentional fire with a goal to cause damage. To prove this, there needs to be a motive for starting the fire. The most common motive for arson is insurance fraud.
To defend against arson charges, often the first step is to hire a fire investigator who can determine if the cause of the fire was intentional. A criminal defense attorney will help you present the facts of the case and protect you against false accusations or circumstantial evidence.
Other common defenses to aggravated arson charges include:
- Not being at the scene of the crime when the fire was started
- The fire was started accidentally
- Somebody else started the fire
Facing an arson case can be overwhelming as you sort through the different charges, penalties, and defenses. Hiring an experienced attorney will help you sort through all the complex components of your case to get your case dismissed or reduced. If you’ve been charged with aggravated arson, contact our expert criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.