Fires can start for a variety of reasons. But, if you start one deliberately, you could be doing something illegal. The crime of arson in Texas makes starting a fire or explosion illegal in certain dangerous circumstances, including recklessly and intentionally starting a fire that damages a person or property. You can also be guilty of arson in Texas if you started a fire while you were in the process of manufacturing illegal drugs. Like many other states, Texas considers arson to be a serious crime. If the fire caused the death or serious bodily injury of another person, you could face more serious charges.
Here some common questions people ask about arson in Texas.
What is the current law about arson in Texas?
You could face arson charges in Texas if you started a fire (regardless of whether it continued after ignition) or caused an explosion with the intent to destroy or damage any of the following:
- Any vegetation, fence of structure on open-space land.
- Any building, habitation, or vehicle.
Also, any of the following circumstances must apply:
- You knew that it was within the limits of an incorporated city or town.
- You knew that it was insured against damage or destruction.
- You knew that it was subject to a mortgage or other security interest.
- You knew that it was located on property that belonged to another person.
- You were reckless about whether the fire or explosion would endanger the life or safety of some other person or property.
You can be charged with arson in Texas if the state’s attorney believes that each of these elements have been met, but there is one exception. If you started a fire on any open-space land, the prosecution must prove that it wasn’t part of a controlled burning.
What kind of evidence can indicate an act of arson in Texas?
The line that’s drawn between starting a fire for warmth and doing so for destructive purposes can be hard to detect. Most fires need to be investigated by law enforcement and insurance company adjusters, so they can determine if the fire was started deliberately or accidentally. Some of the evidence that can determine if it was an act of arson can include, but may not be limited to:
- An accelerant.
- Suspicious circumstances.
- The unusually rapid spread of a fire.
- Illegal activities that caused the fire.
If you have been accused of arson in Texas, be sure to speak to a criminal defense lawyer in Corpus Christi to get help with your case.
What are the penalties for arson in Texas?
Most arson charges in Texas are considered second-degree felonies, but there some circumstances where they can have a different classification. Here are the different ways that arson in Texas can be classified, along with their respective punishments:
- First-Degree Felony — Fires that were intentionally started and resulted in the death or bodily injury of someone else or while planning to damage or destroy a home, place of assembly, or place of worship. These kinds of charges can lead to a prison sentence of 5-99 years (including life).
- Second-Degree Felony — Where most case of arson in Texas will be categorized, which will carry a prison sentence of 2-20 years.
- Third-Degree Felony — Fires that were recklessly started while in the process of manufacturing a controlled substance and resulted in the death or bodily injury of someone else. These type of arson charges in Texas can come with a prison sentence of 2-10 years.
- State Jail Felony — Fires that were recklessly started while in the process of manufacturing a controlled substance and caused damage to any building, habitation, or vehicle. This classification can also include intentional fires that resulted in the reckless damage or destruction to buildings as well as the reckless injury of death of another person, and it will result in a sentence of a 180 days to 2 years in prison.
Be sure to speak to a qualified attorney for more information.
What can I do if I’m facing arson charges in Texas?
Many people who are facing criminal charges make the mistake of not hiring an attorney and speak directly with law enforcement or investigators if they have been charged with arson. Cooperation with an investigation may have some limited benefits, but any statements you make to police officers and investigators will become part of a record that the prosecutor will use in an attempt to convict you.
Before you agree to answer any questions or sign any kind of written statement (regardless of whether you have been charged with arson or some other felony), you should speak to a criminal defense attorney that will make sure your rights are protected and that investigators aren’t forcing you to make any statements that will go against your interests. If you’re facing arson charges in Texas, you’re not obligated to speak with investigators (regardless of what he or she may tell you).
If you’re being charged with arson in Texas and you want to find the best criminal defense attorney in Corpus Christi, be sure to get in touch with Gale Law Group.