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District of Columbia Arson Laws

Starting a campfire that accidentally spreads to surrounding trees due to strong gusts of wind isn't usually a crime. But starting a fire with the intent to damage property or injure someone can lead to arson charges. Even though arson laws vary from one jurisdiction to another, it's usually treated as a serious crime in most states. In the District of Columbia, the seriousness of arson depends on the property involved and the intent behind the arson. But all of the arson statutes in D.C. require a person to "maliciously" burn something in order to be charged.

District of Columbia Arson Laws: The Basics

An important step in legal research is reading the actual statutes that apply, but this can often be a daunting task since they are usually written in legalese. To aid in your research it can help to also read an overview of the statute, such as the overview below which summarizes the arson laws in the District of Columbia and provides links to applicable statutes.


District of Columbia Code Division IV. Title 22, Subtitle I. Chapter 3:

  • Section 22-301 (Arson - Definition and Penalty)
  • Section 22-302 (Burning One's Own Property with Intent to Defraud or Injure Another)
  • Section 22-303 (Malicious Burning, Destruction, or Injury of Another's Property)
What's Prohibited?

Section 22-301: maliciously burning* someone else's dwelling, building, boat, property, or any church, school, or public building.

Section 22-302: maliciously setting fire to one's own dwelling, building, boat, goods, or merchandise with the intent to defraud or injure another person.

Section 22-303: maliciously injuring, breaking, or destroying* by fire or otherwise someone else's real or personal property.

*Note: It's a violation of Sections 22-301 and 22-303 to attempt to act in a manner that's prohibited by these statutes.


Violation of Section 22-301 is punishable by imprisonment for 1 to 10 years.

Violation of Section 22-302 is punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years.

Violation of Section 22-303 is punishable depending on the value of the property:

  • $1,000 or more: imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or fines as provided by Section 22-3571.01.
  • Property that has some value: imprisonment for up to 180 days and/or fines as set forth in Section 22-3571.01.

Note: In addition to the penalties listed for Sections 22-301 and 22-302 above, a conviction can result in fines as per the provisions provided in Section 22-3571.01.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

District of Columbia Arson Laws: Related Resources

For more information and resources related to this topic, please click on the links below.

Get Legal Help with Your Arson Case in the District of Columbia

Arson is a serious crime, and in the District of Columbia, an arson conviction can lead to imprisonment and fines. If you've been charged with violating District of Columbia arson laws, it's important to contact a local criminal defense attorney to learn about the possible penalties you're facing as well as ways you can start crafting your defense.

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