Arson is considered a very serious crime under Nevada law. There are various types of arson specified in the statutes and varying punishments depending on the type of property burned and the intent of the individual or individuals involved. Furthermore, arson can be considered more serious, and carry harsher punishments, if property was burned in order to defraud an insurance company.
The laws governing arson are found in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 205.005 through 205.055. It is considered a crime against property. The statute states: “Any person shall be deemed to have “set fire to” a building, structure or any property mentioned in NRS 205.010 to 205.030, inclusive, whenever any part thereof or anything therein shall be scorched, charred or burned.”
Degrees of Arson
Nevada law outlines several “degrees” of arson, with first degree arson considered the most serious. All degrees are classified as felonies carrying punishments including prison time and possible fines.
First Degree Arson: A person who “willfully and maliciously” sets fire to someone’s home. The statute also includes a person who “aids, counsels or procures” the burning of someone’s home. This is a Category B felony with a punishment of a prison term of two to 15 years, and may also include a fine of up to $15,000.
Second Degree Arson: A person who sets fire to an abandoned building. Also a Category B felony with a prison term of one to 10 years, and may also include a fine of up to $10,000.
Third Degree Arson: A person who set fire to any unoccupied personal property of another with a value of $25 or more; or timber, forest, shrubbery, crops, and vegetation. This is a Category D felony with a prison term of one to four years, and may also include a fine of up to $5,000.
Fourth Degree Arson: A person who attempts to set fire to any of the property classes. A Category D felony punishable by prison term of one to four years, and may also include a fine up to $5,000. Also includes anyone who prepares to set fire, even if the fire never happened. Preparation includes the placing or distributing of flammable material, or placing of a device to cause a fire.
Intent to Defraud Insurance
In addition to any of the degrees outlined above, if the intent of the fire, or attempted fire, was to defraud an insurer, it is an additional Category B felony punishable by one to six years prison time, and may also include a fine of up to $5,000, and restitution for the destruction of the property.
Additional penalties may be imposed by the court, including:
- Court costs
- Costs of police and fire services related to the crime
- Costs of investigation and prosecution of the crime
- Or any combination of the above.
Defending Against Charges of Arson
The prosecution will need, under the Nevada statutes, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged arsonist acted willfully and maliciously to set a fire. It is a higher bar than a negligent or reckless act. Without evidence of the intent required under the law, the prosecution may not be able to sustain an arson charge.
There may not be enough evidence left after a fire to establish the evidentiary requirements to justify an arson charge. A skillful defense lawyer will work to establish that intent and evidence are not sufficient to convict under the arson statutes.
Additionally, if these requirements are not met, a defense lawyer will work to reduce charges to a lesser crime, such as reckless endangerment, which is a gross misdemeanor with only one year in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. The alternatives are to go to trial, where a jury may return a not guilty verdict.
The Defenders Can Provide a Vigorous Defense
If you have been charged with the crime of arson, you face the very real possibility of a felony conviction and long jail terms and fines. The Defenders lawyers are skilled, knowledgeable and able to construct a defense that may result in reduced charges, or even dismissal. Call us today to discuss your case, at (702) 333-3333.