Arson

The four types, or degrees, of arson in Nevada are:

  1. First-degree arson. Burning buildings, occupied vehicles, or personal property occupied by one or more people.
  2. Second-degree arson. Burning abandoned buildings or structures.
  3. Third-degree arson. Setting fire to unoccupied vehicles, vegetation, or property valued at $25 or more owned by the suspect and another individual who has a legal interest.
  4. Fourth-degree arson. Attempting to set fire to anything mentioned in first-, second-, and third-degree arson..

Defendants who burn their own property in an attempt to collect insurance money are committing a form of insurance fraud.

Penalties For Arson

Nevada classifies arson as a felony punishable with the following prison sentences and fines, depending on the degree:

  1. 1st-degree: 2 – 15 years and up to $15,000
  2. 2nd-degree: 1 – 10 years and up to $10,000
  3. 3rd-degree: 1 – 4 years and up to $5,000
  4. 4th-degree: 1 – 4 years and up to $5,000 (plus a possible additional $5,000 fine)

Defendants may also be ordered to pay restitution.

Potential Defense Strategies For Arson Charges

A defense attorney may advise defendants charged with arson to use one of the following defense strategies:

  • The fire was accidental, or the defendant lacked intent.
  • The fire was a natural disaster.
  • The defendant was falsely accused.

Arson And Insurance Fraud

Arson motivated by insurance fraud comes with another charge for the fraud, which is a category B felony. Penalties for insurance fraud in Nevada include one to six years in prison, up to $5,000 in fines, and restitution.

Defense Strategies For Arson Charges

Defendants charged with arson may utilize one of the following defense strategies:

1. The fire was an accident. To be convicted of arson, the defendant should be shown to have acted willfully and maliciously. This is more serious than acting recklessly or negligently. For example, forgetting to turn off the stove or fireplace is negligent. Prosecutors will attempt to prove intent through eyewitness testimony, emails, texts, voicemails, and expert testimony. Deliberately starting a lawful fire, such as a campfire, may be charged as arson if the fire burns nearby property and the spread was reasonably foreseeable.

2. The fire was a natural disaster. Regions with dry heat are more prone to wildfires. Thus, a defendant can claim nature caused the fire — not a person. Testimony from forensic experts can help support this defense. Prosecutors have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A lack of evidence to meet this burden could lead to the charges being dismissed.

3. The defendant has been falsely accused. A defendant may be falsely accused of arson in the following cases:

  • An individual started a fire to obtain insurance money and wants to blame someone else.
  • An individual started a fire and doesn’t want to face the consequences.
  • An individual was a victim of arson and accuses the wrong person out of anger or revenge.

A lack of evidence linking the defendant to the fire can lead to arson charges being dropped.

Sealing Arson Records

If arson charges are dismissed, then they are sealed immediately. But arson convictions have a waiting period that can range from five years to 10 years, depending on the type of arson.

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