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Las Vegas Arson Attorney

Ferris Law will Defend Your Arson Charges - Call Us Today (702) 710-8882

Firefighter in Burning HouseMost people understand that arson means setting something on fire, but the legal definition of arson in Nevada is a little more complicated than simply setting a fire.

How is Arson Defined in Nevada?

The Nevada Revised Statutes define arson as intentionally setting fire to a building, structure or any property where any part of that building, structure or property, or anything inside, is scorched, charred or burned. NRS 205.005.

The 4 Degrees of Arson

There are four degrees of arson. The degree of arson the State charges will determine the possible range of punishment. Each degree is defined below. Every degree of Arson is probationable. In addition to imposing court fines and fees, the Court can also order you to pay the cost of the police and fire services and/or the cost of the investigation and prosecution of the crime.

First Degree Arson

First Degree arson is willfully and maliciously setting fire to, burning, or causing to be burned any dwelling or other structure or mobile home, whether it is occupied or not. First degree Arson also includes setting fire to, burning, or causing to be burned personal property that is occupied by more than one person. Additionally, procuring the burning (which would be arranging for someone else to do it), or aiding someone else in the burning of the dwelling, structure, mobile home or property is first degree arson. The penalty for first degree arson is a term of 2 to 15 years, and a possible fine up to $15,000. It is a category B felony.

Second Degree Arson

Second degree arson is the same as first degree, except the structure is an abandoned building or structure, whether it belongs to you or to someone else. The penalty is 1 to 10 years, and a possible fine up to $10,000. It is also a category B felony.

Third Degree Arson

Third degree arson is the willful and malicious setting fire to, causing to be burned, aiding, or procuring the burning of:

  • Any unoccupied personal property of another which is worth more than $25
  • Any unoccupied personal property owned by you in which someone else has a legal interest
  • Any timber, forest, shrubbery, crops, grass, vegetation or other flammable material not belonging to you.

Third degree arson is a D Felony, which carries a sentencing range of 1 to 4 years and a possible fine up to $5,000.

Fourth Degree Arson

Fourth degree arson is defined as the attempt to willfully and maliciously set fire to, cause to be burned, aid, or procure the burning of any of the buildings or property listed in Nevada Revised Statutes 205.010, 205.015 and 205.020 (which are the definitions of first, second and third degree arson). You can also be charged with fourth degree arson if you commit any preliminary act to start a fire to any of the buildings or property listed.

An example of fourth degree arson is placing combustible material or explosive material in a building in preparation to set fire to that building.

Fourth degree arson is a category D felony, which carries a sentencing range of 1 to 4 years, and a possible fine up to $5,000.

Arson with the Intent to Defraud Insurer

Another type of arson is what you would commonly call insurance fraud. This is where a person willfully, with the intent to defraud their insurance company, sets fire to, burns, or attempts to burn (or aids, encourages or counsels someone else to) a building, structure or personal property. The property must be insured against fire damage. The penalty for this type of arson is a category B felony, and carries a sentence of 1 to 6 years, and a fine up to $5,000.

"Willful and Malicious” Explained

Each degree of arson requires that the act be willful and malicious. This means that an accident does not qualify. Additionally, even if you acted intentionally, but did not have a bad intent, you are not guilty of arson.

For example, knocking over a candle and burning a house down is not arson because it is not willful and malicious. Setting fire to your bookcase because you have no heat in your house and you are cold is also not arson because even though you acted willfully (you meant to do it), you did not act maliciously. Your intent was not to cause harm or do a bad act and therefore it was not malicious.

Possible Defenses

The Act Was Not Willful and Malicious

The State must prove that the act was both willful and malicious, as explained above. If you committed the act by accident, or intentionally but without malice, that is a defense to arson. Additionally, if you can show that your act was negligent, that is also a defense to arson. An example of this would be a fire that was started because of fireworks. You willfully lit the fireworks, but if they land on your neighbor’s house and start a fire, you did not act with any malice. You certainly did not want to harm your neighbor, so negligence would be a valid defense.

Use of Expert Witnesses

Arson cases can get highly technical and can involve a fair amount of science. You may want to hire an expert witness to look at the State’s evidence to dispute any allegations of using accelerants to start the fire, or to dispute the cause of the damage to the property. Sometimes the State’s witnesses are mistaken about the use of accelerants or the cause of the fire, and it is crucial to have your own expert who can examine the physical evidence.

Hire a Skilled Attorney if you have Been Charged with Arson

Because of the highly technical nature of the crime, it is best to hire a qualified attorney to fight an arson charge.

Attorney Jennifer Ferris and the legal team at Ferris Law will help defend you if you have been charged with arson. To schedule a free consultation, call (702) 710-8882 today.

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