Everyone loves a crackling fire, except for those that are set on purpose to destroy property and injure people. People who intentionally set fires that destroy property may be committing the crime of arson. There are four degrees of arson crimes in Colorado, and each one represents a serious criminal charge that is punishable by fines and time in prison. If you’re facing an arson charge of any degree, you need to know what the state looks for as it prepares its case against you. Colorado Statutes § 18-4-102 et seq.
Arson in the First Degree
The most severe form of arson, this crime involves intentionally setting a fire or causing an explosion that starts a fire in an occupied building or structure. It doesn’t matter if there was no one in the structure, or if no one was injured, or whether the fire caused damage. The heart of the crime lies in knowingly and intentionally setting fire to the structure, knowing it might cause damage to that property.
Conviction of an arson one charge can lead to fines up to $750,000 and as many as 12 years in prison.
This crime differs from arson one because the property involved is not an inhabited building and belongs to another person or entity. The value of the property affected establishes the penalties assessed on a person convicted of an arson two charge; if the value of the property exceeds $100.00, then it becomes a felony and penalties include a fine up to $500,000 and several years in prison.
This crime involves setting a fire for the purpose of defrauding another. People who set their own property on fire to set up a false insurance claim are committing the crime of arson in the third degree. This crime also incurs financial penalties and prison terms as penalties.
An arson four charge involves any fire that causes unintended damage to anyone’s property, even if there was no intent to burn that property. People can be accused of an arson crime when they behave recklessly, without considering that their actions might cause damage to other people’s property.
To establish an arson four case, the state must prove that the defendant recklessly set a fire:
- Where there were excessive amounts of dry tinder within the vicinity,
- Too close to buildings or structures, or
- In a location that threatened the lives or safety of other people.
Defenses to Arson
Arson can be difficult to prove because the fire itself destroys much of the evidence of the crime. Also, except for the recklessness identified in the crime of fourth-degree arson, no crime is committed when there is no intent to commit one. People make mistakes and accidents happen.
However, the prosecution often uses forensic science to find causes and sources of arson even in the most burned-out crime scenes, and sometimes witnesses tell tales of how an accused person spoke about fires or setting fires.
For our clients, we hire forensic investigators and experts to evaluate the crime scene and all available evidence to determine whether a crime occurred or to refute the prosecution’s claim that our client perpetrated the crime of arson. Let our arson lawyers protect you in the court system.