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What Are The Penalties For Arson In Michigan?

Arson is one of the most serious crimes that a person can commit because of the inherent dangers of fire. Flames and explosions will destroy any property they touch and have the power to seriously injure or kill any person caught in the inferno. A conviction for arson can lead to substantial fines and long periods of imprisonment.

FIRST DEGREE ARSON (MCL 750.72)

  • A person is guilty of first degree arson, contrary to MCL 750.72, IF a person willfully or maliciously burns, damages or destroys by fire or explosive ANY of the following or its contents:
  1. A multi-unit building or structure in which 1 or more units of the building are a dwelling, regardless or whether any of the units are occupied, unoccupied, or vacant at the time of the fire or explosive (e.g. apartment building or duplex).
  2. Any building or structure or other real property if the fire or explosion results in physical injury to any individual.
  3. A mine.
  • The penalty for first degree arson is a felony conviction punishable by life or any term of years, or a fine not more than $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.

SECOND DEGREE ARSON (MCL 750.73)

  • A person is guilty of second degree arson, contrary to MCL 750.73, IF a person willfully or maliciously burns, damages or destroys by fire or explosive a single-unit dwelling, regardless of whether it is occupied or vacant at the time of the fire or explosion.
  • The penalty for second degree arson is a felony conviction punishable by up to 20 years in prison, or a fine not more than $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.

THIRD DEGREE ARSON (MCL 750.74)

  • A person is guilty of third degree arson, contrary to MCL 750.74, IF a person willfully or maliciously burns, damages or destroys by fire or explosive ANY of the following or its contents:
  1. Any building or structure regardless of whether it is occupied, unoccupied or vacant at the time of the fire or explosion.
  2. Any personal property having a value of $20,000 or more.
  3. Any personal property having a value of $1,000 or more if the person has a prior conviction for arson arising out of Michigan law, federal law or a law of another state (if substantially similar to the Michigan statute).

FOURTH DEGREE ARSON (MCL 750.75)

  • A person is guilty of fourth degree arson, contrary to MCL 750.75, IF a person willfully or maliciously burns, damages or destroys by fire or explosive ANY of the following or its contents:
  1. Any personal property having a value of $1,000 but less than $20,000.
  2. Any personal property having a value of $200 or more if the person has a prior conviction for arson arising out of Michigan law, federal law or a law of another state (if substantially similar to the Michigan statute).
  • OR IF a person willfully or negligently sets fire to a woods, prairie or grounds of another person or permits fire to pass from his or her own woods, prairie or grounds to another person's property causing damage or destruction to that other property.
  • The penalty for fourth degree arson is a felony conviction punishable by up to 5 years in prison, or a fine not more than $10,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.

ARSON OF INSURED PROPERTY (MCL 750.76)

  • A person is guilty of arson of insured property, contrary to MCL 750.76, IF a person willfully or maliciously burns, damages or destroys by fire or explosive property that is insured against loss from fire or explosion AND the person caused the fire or explosion with the intent to defraud the insurer.
  • IF the insured property was a dwelling, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by life or any term of years, or a fine not more than $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.
  • IF the insured property was any building, structure or other real property, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by up to 20 years in prison, or a fine not more than $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.
  • IF the insured property was any personal property, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or a fine not more than $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.

FIFTH DEGREE ARSON (MCL 750.77)

  • A person is guilty of fifth degree arson, contrary to MCL 750.77, IF a person intentionally damages or destroys by fire or explosive any personal property, regardless of ownership, and who has one or more prior conviction for arson arising out of Michigan law. Personal property includes, for purposes of fifth degree arson, an automobile, truck, motorcycle and other personally owned property.
  • The penalty for fifth degree arson is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 1 year in jail, or a fine not more than $2,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.

FIRE OR EXPLOSION OF OTHER PROPERTY (MCL 750.78)

  • If a person willfully or maliciously burns, damages or destroys by fire or explosive any personal property having value of $200 but less than $1,000, OR the personal property has a value less than $200 while the person has a prior conviction for arson arising out of Michigan law, federal law or a law of another state (if substantially similar to the Michigan statute), then the penalty is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 1 year in jail, or a fine not more than $2,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.

INFLAMMABLE OR EXPLOSIVE MATERIAL/INTENT TO COMMIT ARSON (MCL 750.79)

  • If a person uses, arranges, plans, devises or distributes an inflammable, combustible or explosive material, liquid, substance or any device in or near a building, structure, other real property or personal property with the intent to commit arson (or aids, counsels, induces, persuades or procures another to do so) is guilty of a crime.
  • The penalty is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 93 days in jail, or a fine not more than $500 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both, IF the property has a combined value of less than $200.
  • The penalty is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 1 year in jail, or a fine not more than $2,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both, IF:
  1. The property has a combined value of $200 but less than $1,000, OR
  2. The property has a combined value of less than $200 and the person has one or more convictions for committing or attempting to commit arson with inflammable or explosive material (or a similar local ordinance violation).
  • The penalty is a felony conviction punishable by up to 5 years in prison, or a fine not more than $10,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both, IF:
  1. The property has a combined value of $1,000 but less than $20,000, OR
  2. The property is a building, structure or real property, OR
  3. The property has a combined value of less than $1,000 and the person has one or more convictions for committing or attempting to commit arson with inflammable or explosive material with property valued over $1000.
  • The penalty is a felony conviction punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or a fine not more than $15,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both, IF:
  1. The property has a combined value of $20,000 or more, OR
  2. The property has a combined value of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, and the person had two or more convictions for committing or attempting to commit arson with inflammable or explosive material with property valued over $1000.
  3. The property has a value of more than $2,000, is insured against loss by fire or explosion, and the person intended to defraud the insurer.
  4. The property is a building, structure or other real property, and the fire or explosion results in injury to any individual.
  5. The property is a building, structure or other real property, is insured against loss by fire or explosion, and the person intended to defraud the insurer.
  6. The property is a dwelling.
  • The penalty is a felony conviction punishable by up to 15 years in prison, or a fine not more than $20,000 or 3 times the value of the property damaged or destroyed, whichever is greater, or both.
  1. The property is a dwelling and is insured against loss by fire or explosion and the person intended to defraud the insurer.
  2. The property is a dwelling and the fire or explosion results in physical injury to any individual.

The following considerations apply to all arson charges:

  • The prosecutor has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the burning was an intentional criminal act. If only a burning is shown, there is a presumption that the fire had natural or accidental causes. People v Lee, 231 Mich 607, 611-612; 204 NW 742 (1925).
  • It doesn't matter if the real property or personal property was owned by the defendant for an arson prosecution.
  • "Burn", according to MCL 750.71(b), means setting fire to, or doing any act that results in the starting of a fire, or aiding, counseling, inducing, persuading, or procuring another to do such an act. "Damage", according to MCL 750.71(c), includes, but is not limited to, charring, melting, scorching, burning, or breaking. There is no requirement that the property be totally destroyed.
  • "Dwelling", according to MCL 750.71(d), includes, but is not limited to, any building, structure, vehicle, watercraft, or trailer adapted for human habitation that was actually lived in or reasonably could have been lived in at the time of the fire or explosion and any building or structure that is within the curtilage of that dwelling or that is appurtenant to or connected to that dwelling. A dwelling can also include a cottage or cabin that is used sporadically by the owner for purposes such as hunting season. People v Losinger, 331 Mich 490, 500-501; 50 NW2d 137 (1951).
  • Arson is a general intent crime. To act "maliciously", a person at the time he or she burned, damaged or destroyed property or any of its contents must have EITHER intended to burn, damage or destroy the contents OR intentionally committed an act that created a very high risk of burning the property or its contents and that, while committing the act, the defendant knew of that risk and disregarded it. People v Nowack, 462 Mich 392, 614 NW2d 78 (2000).

Arson is a dangerous criminal charge that requires the skills and talent of an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. If you are accused of arson or any other criminal offense, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC right away.

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