What is Arson ?
Arson, in general, is damaging any building, dwelling, or property by means of fire or an explosion.
The arson laws in both Kansas and Missouri are lengthy and can encompass a wide variety of acts. For that reason, prosecutors are likely to seek the highest possible penalty for a person, even if the punishment is made less severe in the end.
If you somehow find yourself being questioned by police or fire investigators, you could somehow find yourself being charged with arson. Protect yourself by invoking your right to remain silent, and do not make any statements without an attorney being present.
Greg Watt, at The Watt Law Firm, is veteran in defending arson cases. If you are charged with or being investigated for arson, ensure your rights and interests are protected by contacting The Watt Law Firm immediately!
Law and Consequences
The severity of punishment for arson convictions vary depending on the circumstances. At minimum, arson is a non-person felony in Kansas. Missouri, however, distinguishes “arson” from “burning,” typically based on the type of property that is damaged. “Arson” is always a felony in Missouri, but “burning” can be considered a misdemeanor.
Have you been charged with Arson in either Kansas or Missouri?
Arson in Missouri
As mentioned above, Missouri distinguishes between “arson” and “burning.” The differences between the two crimes are relatively simple if you keep in mind the type of property that is damaged and the intent of the person committing the act.
Building or Home + Intent to Damage = Arson
To be convicted of arson, a person must knowingly damage a building or inhabitable structure by fire or explosion. Arson is additionally broken down into two degrees.
First degree arson occurs when any person is known to be inside or near the intentionally burned building. It is a class B felony (5-15 years imprisonment) if that person is merely known to be present, but it is a class A felony (10-30 years’ to life imprisonment) if he or she is injured or dies.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.040 & 558.011)
Second degree arson occurs when the building is intentionally burned without knowledge of whether a person is inside or nearby. This is a class C felony (no more than 7 years imprisonment; up to $5,000 fine). If, however, someone is injured or dies, it is a class B felony (5-15 years imprisonment).
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.050, 558.011, & 560.011)
Building or Home + Accidental Damage = Reckless Burning
“Reckless burning” requires the fire or explosion to be intentional, but not the damage to the building. This is a class A misdemeanor (no more than 1 year imprisonment; up to $1,000 fine).
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.060, 558.011, & 560.016)
Other Property (i.e. car or fence) + Intent to Damage = Knowingly Burning
“Knowingly burning” is essentially the arson of personal property, other than a building or inhabitable structure. It is a class D felony (no more than 4 years imprisonment; up to $5,000 fine)
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.055 & 558.011)
Other Property + Accidental Damage = Negligent Burning
“Negligent burning” is causing damage to another person’s property, by fire or explosion, with criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is statutorily defined as “failure to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that . . . a result will follow.” This is a class B misdemeanor (no more than 6 months’ imprisonment; up to $500 fine).
(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 569.065, 562.016, 558.011)
Arson in Kansas
In Kansas, arson is knowingly damaging, by fire or explosion:
- Another person’s dwelling (Severity Level 6, person felony: minimum 32 months imprisonment)
- A dwelling, with intent to defraud an insurer or lienholder (Severity Level 6, person felony: minimum 32 months imprisonment)
- A non-dwelling of another (Severity Level 7, nonperson felony: minimum 15 months imprisonment)
- A non-dwelling, with intent to defraud an insurer or lienholder (Severity Level 7, nonperson felony: minimum 15 months imprisonment)
(Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-5812(a)(1) & (c)(1))
If a fire or explosion occurs in a dwelling, during the manufacture of a controlled substance, it is considered a Severity Level 7, person felony (minimum 22 months minimum). If the property damaged under these circumstances is not a dwelling, it is a Severity Level 7, nonperson felony (minimum 15 months imprisonment)
(Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-5812(a)(2)-(3) & (c)(1))
Kansas also defines aggravated arson as committing those same acts above when a person is inside or if an emergency responder suffers great bodily harm or disfigurement.
If anyone is harmed, or if there is a substantial risk of bodily harm, it is considered a Severity Level 3, person felony (minimum 89 months imprisonment)
If there is no substantial risk of bodily harm to the person inside, it is a Severity Level 6, person felony (minimum 32 months imprisonment)
(Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-5812(b) & (c)(2))