Arson in Oklahoma: Destructive and Dangerous
In Oklahoma, arson is the act of deliberately and maliciously setting fire or the attempted setting of fire to property.
Arson is a crime that can ruin people’s lives. It is destructive in the extreme, burning homes and other property, and sometimes killing animals and people. It is no wonder prosecutors are eager to pin the crime on someone when police hand them a suspect.
Arson is a crime of stealth. Motives can include malice, boredom, mental illness and — sometimes — monetary gain. We all know the old story about burning down a decrepit building and collecting the insurance money. If prosecutors can imply a motive, they might stretch a jury’s imagination to erase doubts any reasonable person might otherwise hold.
It can be easy for prosecutors to suggest a motive for arson. Who has not argued with a housemate at least once? To an investigator, arguments plus fire can equal arson.
Sometimes, a person sets a fire to cover up another crime, such as murder or robbery.
Some fires might be set for pure the thrill of it. Serial arsonists habitually and compulsively set fires.
Arsonists destroy homes, cause death, and ruin people’s lives — including those wrongly accused of an arsonist’s actions.
Arson leaves victims, investigators, and prosecutors hungry for justice, sometimes at the expense of truth. For the wrongly accused, the results can be as devastating as a fire was to victims of arson. For a person charged with arson in Oklahoma, a criminal defense attorney can be their last best hope.
Classification of Crimes By Degree
Oklahoma is a jurisdiction that classifies crimes by degree. Crimes are classified according to severity, with the less severe classification getting a higher classification number and more severe crimes getting a lower number. A crime in the first degree is the most severe. This classification system has implications for such matters as sentencing and bail.
In Oklahoma, arson is classified as of the first, second, third, or fourth degree. At its core, arson is the intentional setting of a fire, with the intent to destroy a structure or its contents. It is always a felony in Oklahoma. Arson goes beyond the setting of the fire. It can also include aiding someone to set a fire, or hiring someone else to set the fire. It also includes setting a fire to defraud an insurer.
Arson in the First Degree
Arson in the first degree is the most serious. In Oklahoma, it is defined as the willful and malicious setting fire to, or burning, of any structure, in whole or part using an explosive device, accelerant, ignition device, or something similar at a time when the structure is inhabited by another person.
First-degree arson is a felony offense punishable by up to 35 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1401
Arson in the first degree also include fires set while manufacturing any controlled dangerous substance which destroys any part of a building while a person or persons are inside. This law includes situations such as methamphetamine-related fires that are not set intentionally.
First-degree arson also includes assisting in, procuring, or otherwise causing first-degree arson. What’s more, burning a person — although that terrible act might also be charged as murder or aggravated battery — is addressed as first-degree arson in Oklahoma.
Arson in the Second Degree
Second-degree arson is very similar to first-degree arson. The only real difference between the two lies in the absence of a person or persons within a building at the time a fire is set.
If however, the property is usually used for lodging such as an apartment or hotel or any place that a person lives, you can be charged with first-degree arson even if the building was unoccupied at the time the fire is set.
Arson in the second degree is a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1402
Arson in the Third Degree
In Oklahoma, arson in the third degree involves the burning of property which has a value of $50 or more by the use of an explosive device. The property involved can include things like automobiles, trucks, trailers, motorcycles, boats, standing farm crops, pasture lands, and forest lands.
Third-degree arson is a felony crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1403
Arson in the Fourth Degree
Arson in the fourth degree is the attempted burning of property. The attempt can be done with any sort of accelerant, explosive device, or with plain matches. Fourth-degree arson is a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1404
Oklahoma treats arson as a serious crime, imposing serious penalties. If convicted, you could spend years in jail, changing the trajectory of your life forever. Don’t wait. Call an experienced Tulsa defense lawyer today.
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