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The Dangerous and Deadly Act of Arson

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Arson Laws in Texas

Starting a fire that gets out of control and causes property damage can lead to charges of arson in Texas. It is not against the law to have a campfire or to burn trash in certain areas but a fire that gets out of hand can be a serious matter. Criminal arson charges can be filed whether a person sets a fire intentionally or accidentally lets a fire become dangerous.

Some recent arson incidents have made it clear just how serious this action can be. Knowing more about arson laws in Texas can help people avoid breaking the law or prepare a legal defense if they are facing charges.

Legal Definition of Arson

According to section 28.02 of the Texas Penal Code, arson is defined as:

Under the law, the fire doesn’t have to actually continue to grow after being ignited. In Texas, a person can be charged with arson for starting a fire to destroy a property, even if they are unsuccessful. In short, any fire that results in damage to property, people or wildlife can lead to charges of arson.

Legal Penalties

The penalties for an arson conviction can vary depending on the intent of the defendant and the result of the fire.

For example, intentionally starting a fire to cause damage within city limits, to damage another person’s property or to get an insurance payout can lead to:

  • Conviction on a second degree felony charge
  • Up to 20 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Mandatory restitution to the owner of the damaged property

If a person is convicted of the above offense but a person dies or is seriously injured in the fire, the charge can be upgraded to a first degree felony. This is punishable by:

  • Up to life in prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Mandatory restitution paid to the victim

Recklessly starting a fire or allowing a fire to grow out of control and cause damage can be punished with:

  • A state jail felony conviction
  • 180 days or up to two years in state jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Recent Arson Cases in Texas

In July of 2015, a Houston teenager was arrested and charged with arson for igniting a massive blaze that caused huge amounts of damage. The 18-year-old man was charged with reckless arson after it was discovered that he used an accelerant to start a fire at the apartment complex where he lived. Although law enforcement believes that he may have accidentally started the fire, he is still subject to criminal prosecution.

The fire broke out at the apartment complex and quickly spread, causing severe damage to four different buildings and destroying over 60 apartments. Over 100 Houston firefighters fought the flames and several suffered injuries and had to be taken to nearby hospitals. None of the apartment residents were injured while they were being evacuated by firefighters.

However, the fact that so much property was destroyed and firefighters were injured may play a role in the case. The Texas Penal Code allows for enhanced legal punishments for acts of arson that lead to injuries. In this case, the court may be more likely to enhance the penalty because public servants were injured in the course of doing their job. Reckless arson is a state jail felony charge but can be upgraded to a more severe penalty category if injuries occur.

Are you facing arson charges? Was it just an accident that got out of hand? Attorney Brett Podolsky can provide the defense you need in these difficult times. Contact his office today at (713) 227-0087.

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