Following most fires or explosions in Texas, local investigators and members of the State Fire Marshal’s Office will begin looking for possible causes. Witnesses who can attest to how a fire started are very rare in these cases, but possible motives when basic accidents have been ruled out may include attempted insurance fraud or hate crimes. Many arson cases are prosecuted in juvenile court and involve allegations against juveniles who are engaged in fire starting without appreciating the dangers of playing with fire.
When investigators determine that a person deliberately caused a fire or explosion, criminal charges are often based on highly circumstantial evidence. Arson is a serious crime in Texas that is classified as a felony offense. A conviction can lead to a lengthy prison and steep fines.
Arson Defense Lawyer in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, TX
If you are facing arson charges, it is in your best interest to immediately seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy defends the rights and good names of clients throughout Tarrant County, including Fort Worth, Arlington, Azle, Bedford, Benbrook, Blue Mound, Burleson, Colleyville, Crowley, Dalworthington Gardens, Euless, Everman, Forest Hill, Grapevine, Grand Prairie, Haltom City, Haslet, Hurst, Keller, Kennedale, Lake Worth, Mansfield, Newark, North Richland Hills, Pelican Bay, Richland Hills, River Oaks, Saginaw, Sansom Park and Southlake.
Our firm also serves communities in surrounding areas. We will provide a free consultation to discuss your case and evaluate your legal options when you call (817)-422-5350.
Arson Charges in Tarrant County
As it relates to arson, Texas Penal Code § 28.01 defines terms in the following ways:
- Habitation means a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons and includes each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle, and each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.
- Building means any structure or enclosure intended for use or occupation as a habitation or for some purpose of trade, manufacture, ornament, or use.
- Property means real property; tangible or intangible personal property, including anything severed from the land; or a document, including money, that represents or embodies anything of value.
- Vehicle includes any device in, on, or by which any person or property is or may be propelled, moved, or drawn in the normal course of commerce or transportation.
- Open-space land means real property that is undeveloped for the purpose of human habitation.
- Controlled burning means the burning of unwanted vegetation with the consent of the owner of the property on which the vegetation is located and in such a manner that the fire is controlled and limited to a designated area.
Under Texas Penal Code § 28.02, a person commits an offense if the person starts a fire, regardless of whether the fire continues after ignition, or causes an explosion with intent to destroy or damage any vegetation, fence, or structure on open-space land; or any building, habitation, or vehicle:
- knowing that it is within the limits of an incorporated city or town;
- knowing that it is insured against damage or destruction;
- knowing that it is subject to a mortgage or other security interest;
- knowing that it is located on property belonging to another;
- knowing that it has located within it property belonging to another; or
- when the person is reckless about whether the burning or explosion will endanger the life of some individual or the safety of the property of another.
A person also commits an offense if they recklessly start a fire or cause an explosion while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance and the fire or explosion damages any building, habitation, or vehicle. A person commits an offense if the person intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion and in so doing recklessly damages or destroys a building belonging to another; or recklessly causes another person to suffer bodily injury or death.
It is an exception to the application of Subsection (a)(1) that the fire or explosion was a part of the controlled burning of open-space land. It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2)(A) that prior to starting the fire or causing the explosion, the actor obtained a permit or other written authorization granted in accordance with a city ordinance, if any, regulating fires and explosions.
An offense under Texas Penal Code § 28.02(a) is a second-degree felony, except that the offense is a first-degree felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that:
- bodily injury or death was suffered by any person by reason of the commission of the offense; or
- the property intended to be damaged or destroyed by the actor was a habitation or a place of assembly or worship.
An offense under Texas Penal Code § 28.02(a-1) is a state jail felony, except that the offense is a third-degree felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that bodily injury or death was suffered by any person by reason of the commission of the offense. An offense under Texas Penal Code § 28.02(a-2) is a state jail felony.
If conduct that constitutes an offense under Subsection (a-1) or that constitutes an offense under Subsection (a-2) also constitutes an offense under another subsection of this section or another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under Subsection (a-1) or Subsection (a-2), under the other subsection of this section, or under the other section of this code.
It is also important to keep in mind that Texas Penal Code § 28.04 establishes the crime of reckless damage or destruction, which a person can be charged with if, without the effective consent of the owner, he recklessly damages or destroys the property of the owner. This is a Class C misdemeanor.
It is no defense to prosecution under this chapter that the actor has an interest in the property damaged or destroyed if another person also has an interest that the actor is not entitled to infringe. The amount of pecuniary loss under this chapter, if the property is destroyed, is:
- the fair market value of the property at the time and place of the destruction; or
- if the fair market value of the property cannot be ascertained, the cost of replacing the property within a reasonable time after the destruction.
The amount of pecuniary loss under this chapter, if the property is damaged, is the cost of repairing or restoring the damaged property within a reasonable time after the damage occurred. The amount of pecuniary loss under this chapter for documents, other than those having a readily ascertainable market value, is:
- the amount due and collectible at maturity less any part that has been satisfied, if the document constitutes evidence of a debt; or
- the greatest amount of economic loss that the owner might reasonably suffer by virtue of the destruction or damage if the document is other than evidence of a debt.
If the amount of pecuniary loss cannot be ascertained by the criteria set forth in Subsections (a) through (c), the amount of loss is deemed to be greater than $750 but less than $2,500. If the actor proves by a preponderance of the evidence that he gave consideration for or had a legal interest in the property involved, the value of the interest so proven shall be deducted from:
- the amount of pecuniary loss if the property is destroyed; or
- the amount of pecuniary loss to the extent of an amount equal to the ratio the value of the interest bears to the total value of the property if the property is damaged.
Texas Arson Penalties
Convictions for arson crimes could lead to the following sentences:
- Class C Misdemeanor — Fine of up to $500
- State Jail Felony — Up to two years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- Third-Degree Felony — Up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- Second-Degree Felony — Up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- First-Degree Felony — Up to 99 years or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
Arson Resources in Tarrant County
Youth Firesetting Prevention and Intervention-Student Manual — This six-day course provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify children and adolescents involved in firesetting. The course addresses how to establish programs to meet the needs of these youths and their families. Skills essential to meet the Youth Firesetting Intervention Professional Standard which is part of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1035, Standard on Fire and Life Safety Educator, Public Information Officer, Youth Firesetter Intervention Specialist, and Youth Firesetter Program Manager Professional Qualifications, are discussed and practiced throughout the course.
Fire Investigations – the City of Fort Worth — The Fort Worth Fire Department Investigations section, also known as the Arson/Bomb Squad, is charged with conducting fire/arson investigations, handling calls related to bomb threats, suspicious packages/explosive devices, issuing Fort Worth Fire Department incident reports, issuing pyrotechnic display permits, and issuing blasting permits. The policy of the Fort Worth Fire Department is to investigate all fires that occur within its jurisdiction. A report is generated for every incident to which the Fire Department responds. To obtain a copy of a fire report, file a public information request online or visit the Fire Investigations office.
Find A Tarrant County Defense Attorney for Arson | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
All federal charges need to be taken seriously, and this is especially true when you have been accused of trafficking human beings. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represent clients throughout the greater Fort Worth area, including Wise County, Tarrant County, Rockwall County, Johnson County, Ellis County, Denton County, and Collin County.