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 encompass a wide variety of acts.
It’s very common to see an arson case begin with a lengthy investigation by the bomb and arson squad. The bomb and arson squad has some of the most highly trained and competent investigators assigned to the task of detecting accelerants and other suspicious causes of damage.
If you find yourself being questioned by anyone in the bomb and arson squad, stop what you are doing and call The Watt Law Firm. Protecting yourself demands that you invoke your right to counsel immediately. Greg Watt is highly experienced in the science and law needed to defend an arson case and your defense could be compromised if you wait too long.
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” may be filed as a misdemeanor.
Have you been charged with Arson in either Kansas or Missouri?
Arson in Missouri
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 three 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, or a class A felony (10-30 years to life imprisonment) if he or she is injured or dies. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.040).
- Second degree arson occurs when the building is intentionally burned without knowledge of whether a person was inside or nearby. This is a class D felony (up to 7 years imprisonment; up to $10,000 fine). If, however, someone was injured or died, it is a class B felony (5-15 years imprisonment). (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.050).
- Third degree arson occurs when a fire or explosion is knowingly started and a building or inhabitable structure of another is recklessly damaged or destroyed. This is a class A misdemeanor and carries with it a range of punishment up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.00. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.053).
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 E felony (up to 4 years imprisonment; up to $10,000 fine).
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.055)
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 B misdemeanor (up to 6months in jail; up to $1,000 fine).
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.060).
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 C misdemeanor (up to 15 days in jail; up to $750 fine).
(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 569.065)
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))
The Watt Law Firm
Kansas City Criminal Defense Lawyer – Greg Watt
If you or a loved one has been charged with arson call Greg Watt immediately!