Colorado Criminal Law: Arson Laws and Punishments

Arson is the crime of knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly setting fire to a property. Even if you set fire to your own property, there is a chance you will face arson charges depending on your motives and other facts of the incident. Inadvertently setting a property on fire may not be regarded as arson unless investigations attribute the fire to recklessness on your part.

Arson is considered a serious crime in Colorado and it is wise that you treat the crime with the seriousness it deserves by hiring a Denver criminal lawyer to offer guidance and provide legal representation during trial.

Determining degree of arson

Most cases of arson involve fire damages to structures, cars, boats, and other properties. One of the metrics used in determining the degree of crime is whether or not there were people or pets in the property when the fire was started. Setting fire to an unoccupied barn or shed will not be considered as big a crime as setting an occupied home alight.

In the event of a fire, law enforcement officers conduct investigations at the scene to establish the cause of the fire. It can take a few days, weeks, or even years before investigations of a fire are completed, especially if there are suspicions the fire was started to cover up another potentially more serious criminal activity.

Degrees of arson

There are four degrees of arson in Colorado. First-degree arson is when someone starts a fire on an occupied property. Intent and potential for personal injuries is what is used to determine the degree of arson, regardless of whether or not damages occurred and/or injuries were sustained.

If you set fire to another person’s property, you will face second-degree charges. If the property in question is worth more than $100, the arson will be considered a felony.

Third-degree arson is when someone starts a fire to defraud an insurance company. Fourth-degree, on the other hand, involves unintentionally starting a fire through reckless behavior.

Penalties for arson

If you are convicted of the most severe type of arson, or first-degree arson, you may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $750,000 or be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison. To be convicted of this form of arson, however, the prosecution must prove that you intentionally set the property on fire.

Second-degree arson may lead to several years behind bars and/or a fine not exceeding $500,000, if the property involved exceeds $100 in value. For a case of arson to be categorized in the second degree, the property must belong to someone else and should not be occupied at the time of the fire.

Third-degree arson is a class 4 felony in Colorado and carries a fine of $2,000-$5,000 in fines and 2-6 years in prison. If you set your house on fire with the intent of filing a false claim, you will be committing a third-degree arson crime.

Fourth-degree arson bears the most sufferable punishments among arson charges. If you are convicted of setting someone’s property on fire by accident, you may be hit with a 2-6-year prison sentence with three years mandatory parole, and/or a fine between $2,000 and $500,000.