New York Arson Laws

New York is home to the world famous New York City fire department which, along with its peers, battle fires throughout the state. The fires are sometimes human made, and, when they're deliberately set, they, they constitute arson, a crime in which a person intentionally damages property through the use of fire or explosives.

New York recognizes differing degrees of arson, based on certain factors including:

  • whether or not a person occupied the property;
  • whether or not a person was seriously injured and;
  • whether or not the fire was caused intentionally, recklessly, or accidentally.

First degree arson, the most serious of the arson charges, is situated alongside first degree murder as one of the most serious offenses in New York. If you're convicted of these charges, you could spend the rest of your life in prison. On the other end of the spectrum is fifth degree arson which is the only arson charge that's a misdemeanor and not a felony.

New York Arson Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of New York arson laws including links to important code sections.

Statutes

 

Penalties and Sentencing

  • Arson in the first degree: This is a class A-1 felony with up to a maximum life sentence and a minimum sentence of 15-40 years.
  • Arson in the second degree: This is a class B felony with a prison term of up to 25 years and a minimum sentence of 5 years.
  • Arson in the third degree: This is a class C felony with a maximum prison term of 15 years and a minimum of 1 year; there are possible fines and restitution to the victim.
  • Arson in the fourth degree: This is a class E felony with a maximum possible prison term of 4 years or a possibility of a probation term of 5 years; there are possible fines and possible restitution to the victim.
  • Arson in the fifth degree: This is class A misdemeanor with a maximum jail term of 1 year with possible probation (3 years) instead of jail time; there are possible fines and restitution to the victim.

Defenses

  • First degree arson: If the charge is based on a person being seriously injured, a defense could be based on the injuries not being considered "serious" as defined by the law; an accidental fire is another possible defense.
  • Second degree arson: A defense is that the defendant did not have knowledge or reason to know that the building was occupied.
  • Third degree arson: A possible defense is that the fire/explosion was an accident. Another possible defense is that the defendant is the sole property owner.
  • Fourth degree arson: A possible defense is that the fire/explosion was an accident.
  • Fifth degree arson: A possible defense is that the fire/explosion was an accident; another defense is that the defendant is the sole property owner.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for New York Arson Laws:

Contact a Criminal Attorney about Your Arson Case

If you're facing arson charges in New York, you're dealing with serious charges that could result in significant prison time. Anytime incarceration is a possibility, you'll want to have an experienced professional on your side. Consider speaking with a criminal defense attorney near you who can help explain your options.

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