The word “arson” often conjures up images of sneaky men in hoodies, creeping around in the dark with a gas can and a lighter, looking for something to destroy. Or worse, a hardened criminal, who uses a raging fire to obliterate the evidence of the murder they just committed. Either way, while these are certainly an option when discussing arson as a crime, it doesn’t begin to cover the realities involved.
In Michigan law, the definition of arson is the willful or malicious burning of property. Whether the property belong to the person who set it on fire, or not, it makes no difference in the eyes of the law other than to help the police establish motive. Burning down a building that belong to you is just as illegal as burning down a building that belongs to a complete stranger.
Many people don’t realize that arson isn’t charged as a single crime. Much like murder and criminal sexual conduct, arson is divided into several categories, each with their own definition of the crime and separate penalty. Another factor that plays a role in how arson is charged, is the motive. Was the fire set for malicious purposes? Or was the reason financial gain?
First Degree Arson:
First Degree Arson includes willfully or maliciously burning or exploding a multi unit building where at least one unit is a dwelling. It makes no difference whether the building is occupied, unoccupied, or vacant. Additionally, if the fire results in physical injury to another person, it also counts as First Degree Arson. Interestingly, burning a mine also falls into this category as well, although this is a very rare instance.
First Degree Arson is a felony under Michigan law, and is punishable by a maximum penalty of life, or any term of years in prison; a fine up to $20,000.00, or 3 times the value of the property, (whichever is greater), or both.
Second Degree Arson:
Second Degree Arson is also a felony in Michigan, and refers to willfully or maliciously burning, damaging, or destroying a dwelling (which means a house or other building that’s been adapted for human living), regardless of whether it is occupied or not. This also includes the contents of a home or dwelling.
Second Degree Arson, also a felony, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000.00, or 3 times the value of the property (whichever is greater), or both.
There are actually three more degrees of arson charges in Michigan – Third, Fourth and Fifth Degree Arson. Join us next time, as we continue this discussion about arson in Michigan by explaining the remaining three charges. We will also break down with what an arson investigator does for you, and explain what burning an insured property can mean. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of arson in Michigan, or any other crime like assault, murder or burglary, contact the arson defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We have spent decades defending people in Michigan against criminal charges, and have earned our clients many successful results. We can help you too!