Fires are serious business. Not only can they cause property damage, but fires are also responsible for thousands of injuries and deaths every year.
In 2015, 1,345,500 fires were reported around the United States. These fires caused:
- $14.3 billion in property damage;
- 15,700 injuries; and
- 3,280 deaths.
Taking these numbers into consideration, we can say that one fire injury happened every 34 minutes and one fire death occurred every 2 hours and 40 minutes.
While many fires are accidental, unfortunately some are set deliberately. When that happens, it is called arson.
Recently, 27-year-old Jesus Eliezer Gonzalez Acevedo of Fayetteville was arrested on a first-degree arson charge for allegedly starting a fire outside the Campground United Methodist Church – while people were still inside the church.
A church cleaning crew noticed the fire and immediately called 911. Although the fire was put out quickly, smoke still got into the church. Officials said it sustained some smoke damage as well as damage to an air conditioning unit and the rear church door, causing around $1,500 in total damage.
Arson is a serious charge here in North Carolina, so it’s important to understand the different charges you might face if you’re accused of committing this type of property crime. Let’s explore those charges and their penalties now.
Two Degrees of Arson in North Carolina
The North Carolina Arson and Other Burnings statute states that there are two degrees of arson:
- A person commits arson in the first degree if the dwelling that is burned is occupied at the time of the burning. Arson in the first degree is a Class D felony, which is punishable by anywhere from 28 to 160 months in prison.
- A person commits arson in the second degree if the dwelling that is burned is unoccupied at the time of the burning. Arson in the second degree is a Class G felony, which is punishable by 8 to 31 months in prison.
A dwelling or house also includes mobile and manufactured-type housing and recreational trailers.
What if you are arrested for burning something other than a dwelling, though?
Other Types of Burnings in North Carolina
If you are accused of burning a structure other than a dwelling, you will still be charged with felony arson, but it might be different from the charges for burning a dwelling.
If you allegedly commit these other types of burnings, you will also face criminal felony charges:
Burning of certain public buildings. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns the State Capitol, the Legislative Building, the Justice Building, or any building owned or occupied by the State or any county, incorporated city, or town or other governmental or quasi-governmental entity, he shall be punished as a Class F felon, punishable by 10 to 41 months in prison.
Burning of schoolhouses or buildings of educational institutions. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns any schoolhouse or building owned, leased, or used by any public or private school, college, or educational institution, he shall be punished as a Class F felon.
Burning of certain bridges and buildings. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns any public bridge, private toll bridge, the bridge of any incorporated company, any fire-engine house, or rescue-squad building, or any house belonging to an incorporated company or unincorporated association, he shall be punished as a Class F felon.
Burning of certain buildings. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns any uninhabited house, stable, coach house, outhouse, warehouse, office, shop, mill, barn, or granary, or any building, structure or erection used or intended to be used in carrying on any trade or manufacture, he shall be punished as a Class F felon.
Burning of building or structure in process of construction. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns any building or structure in the process of construction for use or intended to be used as a dwelling house or in carrying on any trade or manufacture, he shall be punished as a Class H felon, punishable by 4 to 25 months in prison.
Burning of churches and certain other religious buildings. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns any church, chapel, or meetinghouse, the person shall be punished as a Class E felon, punishable by 15 to 63 months in prison.
Burning of boats and barges. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns any boat, barge, ferry or float, without the consent of the owner thereof, he shall be punished as a Class H felon.
Burning of personal property. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns personal property with the intent to injure or prejudice the insurer, he shall be punished as a Class H felon.
Burning of other buildings. If any person willfully sets fire to or burns a building not covered by the other statute provisions, he shall be punished as a Class H felon.
As you can see, arson is taken seriously in our state. If you are facing any type of arson charge, it’s imperative to contact an experienced North Carolina arson attorney as soon as possible to defend your charges and fight for your rights.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense. He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.