Colorado Arson Charges: Understanding What the Different Degrees Mean

In the state of Colorado, there are four different degrees of arson charges. In this post, we’ll explain the four different types of arson along with their penalties, then detail what you need to do if you are facing arson charges.

The Definition of Arson Under Colorado Law

Arson is the unlawful act of setting fire to property which causes damage. Colorado law divides arson into four different charges: fourth, third, second, and first degree arson. Every one of these charges has varying penalties, as well as different potential defenses.

Let’s look at each degree in detail.

Fourth Degree Arson

This charge applies when an individual recklessly sets or maintains a fire, or causes an explosion, which presents the threat of serious destruction of property or serious injury of other individuals. Intent is not necessary for a fourth degree arson conviction.

If you endanger an occupied structure or building with arson, you will face a misdemeanor charge based on the property value. If the property value is less than $100, a class 3 misdemeanor charge applies. For all other property related cases, a class 2 misdemeanor charge will apply. The charge will be elevated to a class 4 felony if a person is endangered by the arson.

Third Degree Arson

This charge applies when an individual intentionally sets fire to any property with an additional intent to defraud. This will apply to cases when an individual seeks to collect insurance payments. This is a class 4 felony in the state of Colorado. If convicted, you will serve between two and six years in prison and pay up to $500,000 in fines.

Second Degree Arson

If an individual sets fire to property that belongs to another individual without that individual’s consent, the charge of second degree arson will apply. The penalties are dependent upon the property’s value. If the property value is under $100, the defendant will be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor. A class 4 felony will apply to second degree arson of property worth more than $100.

First Degree Arson

If the property that is damaged by fire or explosives is considered an occupied structure or building, a charge of first degree arson will apply. This is a class 3 felony.

Colorado laws define a building as a structure intended for accommodation or shelter. A person, animal, or property need not be present in the building for a charge to apply. An occupied structure is any structure used by people or animals, even if it does not qualify as a building. Examples could include a gazebo or a park pavilion.

A conviction for first degree arson could result in a penalty of four to 12 years in prison along with fines ranging from $3,000 to $750,000.

Don’t Try to Handle Arson Charges on Your Own

Colorado Arson Lawyer

The specific nature of your offense will affect the type of defenses an experienced Denver criminal attorney will use in your case. Because of this, the best way to protect your rights and your future is to set up a free legal consultation where you can go over the facts of your case with a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible.


About the Author: 

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.