In the wake of George Floyd’s death, many cities across America have seen riots and destruction mixed in with peaceful protests. In Colorado, a 22-year old man was arrested for setting a police station on fire, a crime that landed him in federal court.
Arson is a major crime no matter where it occurs, but committing arson in Minnesota is a crime that can come with some very serious charges and associated penalties. Here is what you need to know about arson in Minnesota.
What Does Minnesota Consider Arson?
Arson is defined legally as intentionally setting fire or using explosive devices to damage property. The property in question can be a person’s own property and some cases of arson can include acts that were not intentional but the result of gross negligence instead.
The Degrees of Arson in MN
In Minnesota, there are five degrees of arson and three types. They range from misdemeanors to felonies. The level of arson a person is charged with depends on what was damaged and how extensive the damage was.
First Degree Arson
This is the most serious type of arson and is charged as a felony.
First degree arson is committed when a dwelling is deliberately damaged or destroyed by fire or explosives. It doesn’t matter if someone was present in the dwelling at the time of the offense.
Also, if the arson is committed in a structure that isn’t occupied but someone was in it at the time of the offense and the perpetrator knew it, then first degree arson charges can be filed.
First degree arson can result in fines up to $20,000 as well as up to 20 years in prison if it’s committed in a dwelling. If any other building is involved in the arson, then the fines can reach up to $35,000 and will also be charged as a felony.
Second Degree Arson
Destroying unoccupied structures or dwellings with the use of explosives or fire, or destroying property worth more than $1,000, is second degree arson. This is also a felony charge and can result in up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.
Third Degree Arson
This is a felony charge that results from the intentional damage or destruction of property valued between $300 and $1,000 with explosives or fire. This offense is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to five years in jail.
Fourth Degree Arson
A gross misdemeanor, fourth degree arson charges result from purposefully damaging with explosives or setting fire to personal property in a public building or a multiple unit residential building, such as an apartment complex.
This is a charge that usually results when the offense doesn’t qualify under any of the more serious arson charges. Fourth degree arson is punishable by up to $3,000 in fines and one year in jail.
Fifth Degree Arson
Setting fire to any property, no matter how valuable, is considered fifth degree arson, the lowest arson charge possible in Minnesota. This level of arson is punishable by fines up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
Use of Ignition Devices
Any student caught in a school with an ignition device — such as matches or a lighter — under circumstances where there is a risk of fire, can be charged with this petty misdemeanor.
Bottom line? Arson is a serious crime with serious penalties, even if no one is injured, and if you are charged, you need a serious defense strategy to protect your future.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.