From Spark to Inferno: The Spectrum of Arson Charges
Video Transcribed: Hi, I’m Stuart Ericson, an attorney in Oklahoma. Today we’re going to talk about arson, which obviously in layman’s terms means to start a fire and to burn something, is arson.
In Oklahoma, there’s first-degree, second-degree, third-degree, and fourth-degree arson. Each is a little bit different. First-degree arson is the most serious criminal offense you could be charged with. And basically, it is intentionally, not accidentally, but intentionally setting fire to a building that is occupied by one or more people. So this is intentionally setting fire to a structure where people are inside. So that is arson in the first degree because that is obviously the most dangerous situation. So that’s the highest level of arson. And obviously, the punishment for arson in the first degree is going to be the most, it’s a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to 35 years. So zero to up to 35 years for arson in the first degree. So yeah, you have to intentionally set a fire that either completely or partially destroys any building or its contents with people inside. So that is first-degree arson.
Second-degree arson is almost identical. The allegation is that a fire isn’t set intentionally to any building or structure and it partially is destroyed or completely destroyed, but in this situation, nobody is inside the building. So it’s uninhabited. So that is arson in the second degree. The punishment for that is a fine of up to $20,000 and confinement in DOC or the Department of Corrections or prison for up to 25 years. So again, intentionally setting fire to a building or structure that is not occupied, there are no people in it. So that is arson in the second degree. Arson in the third degree is a little bit different because this is usually arson to get a property where there’s insurance involved and you’re looking to get a payout.
So this one is, the property must be worth over $50. And it generally applies to terms like cars or other items that insurance may be on, where a fire is started because you’re going to try to collect. And it also is in a situation that does not fit arson second degree or arson first degree. So that is arson and the third degree, up to 15 years, and a fine of up to $10,000. Arson in the fourth degree is basically like an attempt. So it’s kind of an uncompleted arson, where you intentionally intend or attempt to set a fire, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t really start. It doesn’t spread or it doesn’t do damage. So it’s kind of a failure. It’s an attempted arson, but the arson fails. So that is fourth-degree arson and that still is a felony. A fine of up to $5,000 and a punishment in prison for up to 10 years.
So all the intentional setting fire cases are at different levels. First-degree, second-degree, third-degree, and fourth-degree. All of them are fact specific. You would need to talk to an attorney if charged with any of these. If you have any questions about any of these, reach out to me, Wagoner County criminal defense lawyer Stuart Ericson at wagonerlawyer.com. Thank you.