The Arson crime in the state of Texas makes starting a fire or causing an explosion illegal under certain dangerous circumstances. Arson includes recklessly starting a fire that damages people or property, with intent to damage property or in the process of manufacturing illegal drugs. Learn more detailed information about the Arson offense below.
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The Arson offense does require the state to prove a specific intent, unless the fire or explosion caused damage to property or injury to a person. If the fire caused damage or injury, then the state only has to prove that you were reckless.
Arson is classified in the Texas Penal Code under Title 7 “Offenses Against Property,” Chapter 28 “Arson, Criminal Mischief, And Other Property Damage Or Destruction.”
What is the current Texas law about Arson?
The current Texas law defines the offense of Arson in Penal Code Section §28.02 as follows:
(a) A person commits an offense if the person starts a fire, regardless of whether the fire continues after ignition, or causes an explosion with intent to destroy or damage:
(1) any vegetation, fence, or structure on open-space land; or
(2) any building, habitation, or vehicle:
(A) knowing that it is within the limits of an incorporated city or town;
(B) knowing that it is insured against damage or destruction;
(C) knowing that it is subject to a mortgage or other security interest;
(D) knowing that it is located on property belonging to another;
(E) knowing that it has located within it property belonging to another; or
(F) when the person is reckless about whether the burning or explosion will endanger the life of some individual or the safety of the property of another.
(a-1) A person commits an offense if the person recklessly starts a fire or causes an explosion while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance and the fire or explosion damages any building, habitation, or vehicle.
(a-2) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion and in so doing:
(1) recklessly damages or destroys a building belonging to another; or
(2) recklessly causes another person to suffer bodily injury or death.
How can I be charged with Arson?
You can be charged with Arson if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 28.02(a) as described in the section above have been met.
However, there is an exception to a Subsection (a)(1) offense. In addition to proving the that there you intended to burn open-space land, the state also has to prove that the fire or explosion was not a part of the controlled burning of open-space land.
If you obtained a municipal permit to burn something, then you might still be subject to an Arson prosecution by state attorneys, but you can assert a defense at trial that prior to starting the fire or causing the explosion, you obtained a permit or other written authorization granted in accordance with a city ordinance regulating fires and explosions.
What is the punishment for Arson?
If the offense falls under subsection (a), then a conviction for Arson is punished as a Felony of the Second Degree (with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of up to 20 years), unless the fire caused any injury or the property was a home or place of worship, in which case the offense is punished as a Felony of the First Degree (with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and up to life in prison). Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors
If the offense is related to manufacturing illegal drugs under subsection (a-1), then a conviction for Arson is punished as a State Jail Felony (with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to 2 years), unless the fire causes serious bodily injury or death, in which case it is a Felony of the Third Degree (with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and prison time of up to 10 years).
If the state does not prove a specific intent and only obtains a conviction under the “reckless” subsection (a-2) offense, then a conviction is punished as a State Jail Felony, with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to 2 years.
^1. Texas Penal Code §28.02^2. Texas Penal Code §28.02(b)^3. Texas Penal Code §28.02(c)^4. Texas Penal Code §28.02(d)^5. Texas Penal Code §28.02(e)^6. Texas Penal Code §28.02(f)