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North Carolina Arson Laws

The offense of arson is arguably one of the most dangerous crimes that you can commit. Although categorized as a property crime, it is much more serious than other property crimes such as vandalism because arson has the potential to cause personal injury including bodily harm or even death. Because of the possible threat to human life, arson is generally a felony offense with severe penalties.

Degrees of Arson

North Carolina recognizes two degrees of arson: first degree and second degree. First degree, the more serious of the arson offenses, occurs when an individual intentionally burns someone's dwelling, mobile home or trailer and the structure is occupied at the time of the burning. If the dwelling burned was unoccupied at the time of the burning, then the offense is arson in the second degree. First degree arson is punishable as a Class D felony; second degree is punishable as a Class G felony.

Types of Buildings and Structures

North Carolina's arson laws also make stark distinction based on the types of involved. There are separate offenses for the burning of certain government buildings such as the State Capitol and the Legislative Building and the building of schools, churches, and other religious buildings. All of these crimes are Class H felonies.

North Carolina Arson Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of laws related to North Carolina's arson laws, including links to important code sections.


  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-58, 58.2 (Arson)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-60 (Burning of schoolhouses or buildings of educational institutions)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-62.2 (Burning of churches/other religious buildings)
Penalties and Sentencing

North Carolina uses a complex sentencing formula; the actual sentence will depend on factors such as prior criminal history. The following are general sentencing guidelines.

First degree arson

  • The intentional burning of another's dwelling and the dwelling is occupied or the willful and malicious burning of any mobile home, manufactured-type house or trailer home that is the dwelling of another and was occupied during the burning.
  • Class D felony, punishable by 38-160 months incarceration.

Second degree arson

  • Intentional burning of another's dwelling and the dwelling is unoccupied.
  • Class G felony, punishable by 8 -31 months.

Class H felony

  • Punishable by 4-25 months incarceration

Possible Defenses

  • Mistake of fact
  • The incident was accidental

Related Offenses

  • Vandalism: North Carolina General Statutes: 14-159-21
  • Disorderly Conduct: North Carolina General Statues 14-288-4

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.

North Carolina Arson Laws: Related Resources

Talk to a North Carolina Attorney about Your Arson Case

Arson is a serious crime that severely impacts all participants. If you've been charged with violating North Carolina's arson laws, then consider talking to a criminal defense attorney who can help you front a solid defense. Use Findlaw's attorney directory to find a local attorney.

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