If you burn a neighborhood fence, it will likely result in state arson charges. While state offenses require a serious approach to defense, the consequences are significantly less severe than a federal arson conviction.
Federal charges for committing arson only arise in certain circumstances. It is in your best interests to learn about these circumstances so you will not be blindsided when anticipating only a state-level complaint.
Texas arson laws in brief
The intent is a critical element of state arson charges. Under the Texas penal code, arson involves starting a fire (with the intent) to damage or destroy property. It is typically prosecuted as a 2nd-degree felony offense.
If the fire destroyed or damaged another’s structure or building, it could lead to 1st-degree felony charges. If someone suffers from injury or death because of the fire, 1st-degree felony charges may also apply.
Federal arson laws in brief
A fire must occur in a U.S. territorial or maritime jurisdiction to qualify as a federal offense. Federal level arson applies to the following examples of government-owned items destroyed or damaged in an intentional fire:
- Buildings and structures
- Water vessels
- Naval or military stores (supplies)
- War munitions
- Machinery supplies or materials
- Building supplies or materials
- Appliances or structural aids for shipping or navigation
Federal charges may also arise for attempting to commit arson or participating in an arson conspiracy.
Upon conviction, the penalties for arson at the federal level are harsh. You could receive 25 years to life in prison if the fire threatened the life of other people, for example. Learning more about your defense options for arson will be crucial if you are accused.