Colorado Arson Laws and Punishments

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

All fires have the potential to cause major destruction, but not all fires are the result of criminal action. Some can be caused unintentionally, like when someone accidentally leaves the stove on or when construction workers use propane torches for roof repairs and fail to control the resulting sparks.

However, when a person intentionally sets a fire, they can be charged with arson crimes. Although state laws have various arson definitions, the crime is always taken very seriously. The state of Colorado is no different. If you're charged with arson in the state, you must contend with Colorado's arson punishments, which are severe.

Degrees of Arson in Colorado

Colorado recognizes four degrees of arson. Arson in the fourth degree is classified as the least serious offense; arson in the first degree is the most serious offense. As expected, first degree arson carries the highest punishments (incarceration for up to 12 years) and fourth degree arson carries the least strict penalties (a maximum sentence of six years in prison).

Overview of Colorado Arson Laws and Punishments

Consulting with an attorney is the preferred path to take for an accurate understanding of how a statute applies to you. However, before reaching that point, you can read a concise guide to the law written in everyday language. See the chart below for an easy-to-follow overview of Colorado's arson laws.

Statutes

Colorado Revised Statutes:

 

Fourth Degree Arson; Third Degree Arson

 

Fourth Degree Arson: An individual knowingly or recklessly starts/maintains a fire or causes an explosion on their own property or another person's property. This act must place someone in danger of death or serious bodily injury or must place another person's building or occupied structure in danger of damage.

  • Endangered Person: Class 4 felony, punishable by incarceration, ranging from 2-6 years.
  • Endangered Property ($100 or more): Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail.
  • Endangered Property (less than $100): Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 3 months in jail.

Note: It is not considered fourth degree arson if a person starts and maintains a fire as a controlled agricultural burn in a reasonably cautious manner; and no person suffers bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or death as a result of the fire.

Third degree arson: An individual intentionally damages any property with the intent to defraud. This is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 2-6 years in prison.

Second Degree Arson

An individual knowingly damages or destroys another's property other than a building or occupied structure in the following ways:

  • Sets fire to,
  • Burns,
  • Causes to be burned, or
  • By using explosives.

This is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 4-12 years in prison.

First Degree Arson

An individual knowingly damages or destroys another's property that is any building or occupied structure in the following ways:

  • Sets fire to,
  • Burns,
  • Causes to be burned, or
  • By using explosives.

This is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 4-12 years in prison.

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.

Colorado Arson Laws and Punishments: Additional Resources

Facing Arson Charges in Colorado? Get Help from a Lawyer

If you're accused of violating Colorado's arson laws and are worried about a harsh punishment, take your case to an experienced attorney. A criminal defense lawyer can gather evidence and can mount a persuasive defense on your behalf.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.