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Analyzing 3 Versions Of Arson Crimes In Virginia

Arson

Arson is a general term that can refer to a number of fire-related crimes under Virginia law. From a general standpoint, arson usually involves burning or using explosive to destroy a residence, building, or some kind of property. To appreciate the nuances of arson in Virginia, please find below the laws against and penalties for three different versions of this offense.

  1. Burning or Destroying any Dwelling House

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-77 establishes the laws against burning or destroying any dwelling house. This section makes it illegal to:

  • Burn or destroy by explosive, totally or partially, any dwelling house or manufactured home;
  • Cause to be burned or destroyed by explosive, totally or partially, any dwelling house or manufactured home; or
  • Aid, counsel, or procure the burning or destroying by explosive of any dwelling house or manufactured home.

In addition to dwelling houses and manufactured homes, Section 18.2-77 also prohibits the burning or destroying by explosive of any occupied:

  • Hotel;
  • Hospital;
  • Mental health facility;
  • Railroad car;
  • Boat;
  • Vessel;
  • River craft;
  • Church or church property; or
  • Place where people usually dwell or lodge.

Section 18.2-77 also details the Virginia penalty for burning or destroying any dwelling house. This offense is a felony crime and, if convicted, the punishment can include five years to life in prison and up to $100,000 in criminal fines.

But if the structure or building in question was unoccupied at the time of the offense, it is a Class 4 felony. If convicted, the punishment will mirror the one described below for Class 4 felonies in Virginia.

  1. Burning or Destroying any Property/Grain/Crop

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-81 provides the laws against burning or destroying any personal property, standing grain, or other crop. This section makes it unlawful to:

  • Maliciously set fire to or burn or destroy by explosive any personal property, standing grain, or other crop;
  • With intent to defraud set fire to or burn or destroy by explosive any personal property, standing grain, or other crop; or
  • Aid, counsel, or procure the burning or destroying by explosive of any personal property, standing grain or other crop.

Section 18.2-81 also furnishes the Virginia penalty for burning or destroying any personal property or grain/crop. If the value of the property in question is under $1,000 it is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, the punishment can include a maximum of 12 months in jail and $2,500 in criminal fines.

If the value of the property burned or destroyed is worth $1,000 or more, however, this offense is a Class 4 felony. If convicted, the punishment can include two to 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in criminal fines.

  1. Setting Fire to Woods/Fences/Grass

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-86 establishes the laws against setting fire to any woods, fences, and grass. This section makes it illegal to maliciously set fire to any:

  • Wood;
  • Fence;
  • Grass;
  • Straw; or
  • Things that could spread fire across land.

Section 18.2-86 also explains the Virginia penalty for this offense, which is a Class 6 felony. If convicted, the punishment can include one to five years in prison and up to $2,500 in criminal fines.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal assistance with arson or other crimes under Virginia law, it can be immensely constructive to speak with a seasoned Leesburg criminal defense lawyer. With proven experience in criminal defense the lawyers at Simms Showers LLP can help you fight back against charges like arson. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.

SOURCES:

law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter5/section18.2-77/

law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter5/section18.2-81/

law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter5/section18.2-86/

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