Arson in Texas is a very serious crime that can result in significant legal and collateral consequences if convicted. Very often an arson investigation commences under suspicious circumstances related to how the fire was started. If investigators suspect foul play, criminal charges may be filed. If you are currently the object of an investigation for arson, then an experienced Houston arson lawyer will know how to defend you through vigorous legal representation.
With more than 30 years of experience as a Houston property crimes lawyer, Ned Barnett understands what it takes to minimize and possibly avoid criminal convictions for his clients. He is ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights and your freedom.
Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 to arrange a free consultation about your current situation.
Arson Under Texas Law
The Texas Penal Code (Chapter 28) defines arson as intentionally or recklessly starting a fire or explosion in order to cause property damage or to do so without regard for the safety of property and other persons. Intent is what matters with the charge, regardless of whether or not the fire caused any actual damage.
Any type of arson is a felony; however, the Texas Code distinguishes various acts of arson based on the nature of the intent, property and property damages involved. They may be summarized as follows.
- If you commit arson specifically with the intent to kill it is designated as capital murder. As an adult convicted of this crime you will either face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
- If you commit arson without the intent to kill, but someone is seriously injured or dies, you will be charged with a first-degree felony. The punishments you will face include five to 99 years, or life in prison, and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Motivations Affecting an Arson Charge
The most common reason for the commission of arson is to intentionally damage or destroy a structure or property, but the motivations behind these acts vary and can include:
- Concealing evidence
- Obtaining monetary gain from insurance
- Murder or physical assault
- Unintentional fire caused by manufacturing drugs or another illegal activity
These motivations can determine the level of charges that are filed against you.
Arson convictions in Texas are serious and incur very stiff penalties. You can expect to face incarceration and steep fines for any degree of conviction. As well, you may be required to pay monetary restitution to the owner of the property you damaged or destroyed.
The penalties for arson in Texas include:
First Degree Felony Arson
- An act of arson that results in the bodily injury or death of another
- An act of arson that burns or causes and explosion in a place of worship, place of assembly or habitation
- Punishments can range from five to 99 years with a maximum fine of $10,000
Second Degree Felony Arson
- Arson that carried out to intentionally damage or destroy property
- Punishments can range from two to 20 years in prison with a maximum fine of $10,000
Third Degree Felony Arson
- Arson committed recklessly while manufacturing a controlled substance which damages a building, vehicle, or habitation
- Arson that causes a fire or explosion while manufacturing a controlled substance that injures or kills another person
- Penalties can range from two to 15 years in prison
- Typically classified as a non-violent crime with the opportunity for parole sooner than first or second-degree arson
State Jail Felony Arson
- Arson from cooking meth or some similar type of activity that may also damage or destroy a building belonging to another
- Penalties can include six months to two years in state jail and a maximum fine of $10,000
Fire used as a deadly weapon as well as insurance fraud connected with the offense may enhance the charges and penalties involved.
Collateral Consequence of an Arson Conviction
As with any type of felony conviction, there are consequences for the arson offender that reach beyond prison time, fines and a possessing a criminal record. Below is a list of some of the possible additional consequences you may face if convicted:
- Restricted right to possess firearms
- Driver’s license restrictions
- Loss of the right to vote
- Loss of state licensure(s) affecting future employment opportunities
- Loss of federal assistance or education funding
Defend Yourself and Contact a Houston Arson Lawyer
A Houston arson attorney may utilize one of the following defenses based on the facts involved in order to reduce or eliminate your charges:
- You did not start the fire or explosion that damaged the property or caused the death of another
- You did not intend to damage or destroy the property of another person or cause another person’s death
- You started the fire for innocent reasons and simply lost control of the blaze
The penalties you will face for an arson conviction are severe. The consequences can also extend beyond your fines and imprisonment. If you’re facing an arson charge, allow Houston arson lawyer Ned Barnett to personally review your case and produce a strong defense on your behalf. With over 30 years of experience as a Houston property crimes lawyer, he is ready to help you.