Arson is one of the most serious crimes in Missouri. Section 569 of Missouri laws generally defines arson as the act of knowingly setting fire to a building or an inhabitable structure. This can be either by starting a fire or causing an explosion. The arson laws in Missouri are quite broad and encompass a wide variety of acts.
Missouri categorizes arson into three levels. Arson in the first degree is the most serious of the offenses and arson in the third degree is considered the least serious of the offenses. The differences between the three levels are mainly based on the type of property that is damaged, the intent of the perpetrator and the presence of any other person in the property or lack thereof. This crime in Missouri can be classified as either a felony or misdemeanor based on the circumstances surrounding the offense.
Arson in the third degree
Arson in the third degree occurs when a person knowingly starts a fire or causes an explosion and as a result recklessly damages or destroys a building or an inhabitable structure belonging to another person. The offense of arson in the third degree is considered a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2000.
Arson in the second degree
This is a more serious charge as compared to arson in the third degree. Arson in the second degree occurs when
- a person knowingly starts a fire or causes an explosion
- as a result recklessly damages or destroys a building or an inhabitable structure of another
- without the knowledge of whether a person was present or in near proximity.
The offense in the second degree is a Class D felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 7 years and\or fines of up to $10,000 unless someone was injured or died as a result of the fire or explosion, in which it is a class B felony punishable by imprisonment for a period between 5 years and 15 years.
However, under Section 569.050 (2) of Missouri laws, a person does not commit arson in the second degree if; he or she is the only person with a possessory, proprietary or security interest in the damaged building or inhabitable structure, or if other persons have those interests, all of them gave the person permission to perform the act; and if the person’s purpose to damage the building or inhabitable structure was a lawful one.
Arson in the first degree
A person commits the offense of arson in the first degree if he or she
- intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion
- and as a result damages a building or inhabitable structure,
- and when he or she knows that any person is present or nearby
- and thereby recklessly places such a person in danger of death or serious physical injury.
It’s also considered arson in the first degree when a person
- starts a fire or explosion and thereby damages a building or inhabitable structure
- in an attempt to produce methamphetamine.
First degree arson is a class B felony if the perpetrator merely knows that any person is present or nearby. However, it’s considered a class A felony if the act results in serious physical injury to another person or causes death or if the fire or explosion started in an attempt to produce methamphetamine. A class A felony carries a prison sentence ranging from 10 years to 30 years or life imprisonment.
Missouri distinguishes arson from burning whereby the latter is typically a misdemeanor, though it can be a class E felony in some circumstances.
If you’re facing arson charges in Missouri, it’s important to contact a competent Missouri criminal defense attorney. Arson charges are serious criminal charges that should be handled by an experienced attorney. Regardless of the specifics of the arson charges, a professional criminal defense attorney in Missouri will work tirelessly to mount a solid defense.