When people think of arson, they think of serious house fires or insurance scams where the owner of a building destroys the property to get the insurance money. Under Texas law, arson entails much more. Arson can be anything from burning vegetation, a fence, a structure, insured buildings, property with mortgages, the property of another, and vehicles, among others. Arson cases can be brought for property the accused owns or property another person owns. What makes the difference is often the intent of the accused because accidents do happen.
Under Section 28.02 of the Texas Penal Code, there are nine different ways a person could be charged with arson.
In an arson case, the State must prove the following:
A person starts a fire regardless of whether the fire continues
Or causes an explosion
With the intent to destroy or damage
- Any vegetation, fence, or structure on open space land, and the fire was not part of a controlled burn;
- Any building, habitation, or vehicle within city limits and knowing that the property is within the limits of an incorporated city or town;
- Any building, habitation or vehicle and knowing that it is insured against damage or destruction;
- Any building, habitation, or vehicle and knowing that it is subject to a mortgage or other security interest;
- Any building, habitation, or vehicle, knowing that it is located on the property of another;
- Any building, habitation, or vehicle, knowing that it is located within the property of another; or
- Any building, habitation, or vehicle and is reckless about whether the burning or explosion will endanger the life of some individual or the safety of the property of another.
The above provisions are a second degree felony, and are punishable by between 2 and 20 years incarceration and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00. Unless a person suffered bodily injury as a result or the property to be damaged or destroyed was a habitation or a place of worship. In those instances, it is punishable by between 5 and 99 years incarceration or life and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00.
- A person
Starts a fire or causes an explosion;
While manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance; and
The fire or explosion damages any building, habitation, or vehicle.
Under this type of charge, the offense is a state jail felony punishable by between six months and two years in a state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00. However, if a person suffered bodily injury or death, the offense is a third degree felony, and is punishable by between 2 and 10 years incarceration and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00.
- A person;
Starts a fire or causes an explosion; and
Recklessly damages or destroys a building belonging to another or causes another to suffer bodily injury or death.
This offense of arson is punishable by between six months and two years in a state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00. The main difference between this section and other sections is the accused does not have the intent to destroy or damage any property as a result.
Arson cases can be very complex. After a fire, a lot of evidence can be corrupted by the actions of firefightesr putting out the flames. Many times, arson cases rely on complex scientific theories. Finding out the states theory is critical. Reviewing the work of any expert and finding one who can testify on the behalf of the accused may be critical.
There are a variety of ways in which a person can be charged with arson. However, the fact that a person has been charged does not mean they are guilty. The State still has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The circumstances of an arson case matter greatly. The potential penalties vary. If you or a loved one have questions about an arson case, call Brian J. Newman now at 817-231-0023 to talk about your case. It is important to act quickly.