Criminal Mischief, Arson Law in Texas
Fires unfortunately happen relatively frequently in the State of Texas and across the U.S. in general. Some weather conditions make fires inevitable, but every so often, fires are set intentionally and that is when arson charges are filed.
Arson charges in Texas are treated seriously, and the penalties for arson in Texas reflect that. The damage alone caused by arson is usually extensive, and that’s without considering the potential danger to human life. If it is determined during an investigation that a fire was started under suspicious circumstances, you better believe that the authorities will be looking to lay charges. In Texas, the punishment for criminal mischief depends on the severity of the crime. From first-degree arson to third-degree arson, punishment for criminal mischief is designed to be directly proportionate to the gravity of the crime
Types and Punishment for Criminal Mischief/Arson in Texas
The precise definition of arson according to Chapter 28 of the Texas Penal Code is “intentionally or recklessly starting a fire or explosion with intent to cause damage to property or with disregard for the safety of property or other people.” Offenders commit crimes of arson for many different reasons. Revenge, some kind of financial gain through insurance, or attempted murder are all possible motives for arson.
Different levels of arson also exist under the Texas Penal Code.
First-degree arson is the most serious of any arson charge. There must be proof that the defendant purposely committed arson for these aggravated arson charges to be laid. What also differentiates first-degree, or aggravated, arson is the intent. If it’s theorized that the offender maliciously set the fire with the intent to harm or damage, then the first-degree charge is likely appropriate.
As you can imagine, the charges for first-degree arson are severe. It is considered just under murder as one of the most serious offenses. In Texas, a defendant can serve up to 99 years if convicted of the worst case of arson. The minimum sentence would be nine years.
When the damages aren’t as significant and the intent to harm not as purposeful, then a lesser charge of second-degree arson is laid. It’s important to note that intent is the determining factor here. If someone accidentally starts a fire, then they cannot be charged with second-degree arson. But if the intent was malicious, Texas law states that even if the property wasn’t damaged in the fire, the individual can still be charged with arson.
Second-degree arson is considered an act of violence in most states. That carries a sentence of anywhere from two to 35 years in prison. And because it is a violent crime, offenders must do more of their time before being eligible for parole.
When there is little or no intent and the damage is minimal, then third-degree arson is likely the appropriate charge. The difference here is that offenders are considered reckless rather than malicious and have displayed no intent to harm or destroy.
Penalties for third-degree arson are two to 15 years in prison. However, it is typically classified as a non-violent crime, which means that offenders are up for parole sooner than with first- or second-degree arson.
Bail for Arson in Texas
As with most other crimes, bail for arson in Texas is possible. If a judge grants a defendant bail, then consider immediately calling PCS Bail Bonds. We have over 25 years of experience dealing with Texas courts and can have your bail papers ready quickly.
If you or a loved one has been charged with arson, contact PCS Bail Bonds at (888) 335-1655.