It was in February of 2019 that a woman from Burns Flat visited her daughter in California to help care for her new granddaughter. While there, she received a call from neighbors stating that her house was on fire. Upon returning home, the woman learned from investigators that the cause of the house fire was definitely arson, but wouldn’t say more. So, what is arson in Oklahoma, and what are the penalties for it?
In Oklahoma, arson is defined as deliberately setting, or trying to set, fire to a property. Oklahoma statutes outline four degrees of arson, with the first degree describing the worst charge of arson a person could face.
Arson in the First Degree
Oklahoma defines arson in the first degree as willfully and maliciously setting fire to a structure using some type of explosive, accelerant, or ignition device. It also requires that the start of the fire occur when a person is inside the structure.
The statute also includes causing a fire while producing any illegal dangerous substance, such as manufacturing methamphetamine. A person doesn’t need to set the fire in order for the prosecution to press charges of arson. Helping a person to set a fire or procuring equipment to set a fire can also result in charges of arson in the first degree.
Arson in the first degree is considered a felony in Oklahoma. It is punishable by up to 35 years in prison, a maximum fine of $25,000, or both.
Arson in the Second Degree
Arson in the second degree is very similar to arson in the first degree. The only difference is that arson in the second degree does not require anyone to inhabit the building or structure at the time of the fire. It’s important to understand, though, that if a person sets fire to a hotel or apartment building that is meant for habitation, arson in the first degree charges may apply, even if no one was inside at the time.
Arson in the second degree is also considered a felony in Oklahoma. It is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, a maximum fine of $20,000, or both.
Arson in the Third Degree
Arson in the third degree in Oklahoma refers to setting fire to any property valued over $50 using an explosive. The property doesn’t typically include homes, but does include farm crops, motor vehicles, trailers, and even forest lands. Arson in the third degree is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
Arson in the Fourth Degree
When a person attempts to burn any property, even if that attempt is unsuccessful, they may face charges of arson in the fourth degree. The attempt can use any type of accelerant, explosive device, or even simple matches. This, like all other types of arson in Oklahoma, is a felony. This crime is punishable by up to 10 years in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.
Facing Charges? Speak to an Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Lawyer
In Oklahoma, arson is taken very seriously. It can ruin lives, including those that are falsely accused. A criminal defense lawyer in Oklahoma can help those facing charges retain their freedom and beat the charges.
If you’ve been charged with arson, or any other crime, contact Banks, Gillett, Gillett, PLLC at (405) 607-4800. Being convicted of arson means not only jail time and high fines, but also a criminal record that will follow you around for the rest of your life. Don’t take your chances. Call us today or fill out our online form for your free consultation.