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Illinois Arson Laws

In Illinois, arson is a serious crime with major repercussions. Arson means willfully destroying someone else's property worth $150 or more by setting fire to it without the permission from the owner. Even if you own part of the property, it is still considered arson if someone else shares the ownership and you do not have that person's permission to destroy it by intentionally setting fire to it. There are enhanced penalties for residential arson (setting a fire to a person's home) or house of worship arson.

What Agency Investigates Suspected Arson Crimes In Illinois?

The State Fire Marshall is responsible for investigating suspicious fires and explosions throughout the state. Arson investigators are sworn peace officers authorized to interview witnesses, collect evidence, make arrests and appear in court.

When Will An Arson Investigator Be Called To the Scene Of a Fire?

Here's is a list of typical scenarios where an arson investigator may be called to the scene of a fire or explosion:

  • There is a death or serious injury, especially if it involves a firefighter or police officer.
  • The property involved incurs a large dollar loss.
  • The property involved is state property, federal property, or school property.
  • Local authorities cannot determine the cause and/or origin of the fire.
  • Conducting the investigation by local authorities may be or could be considered a conflict of interest.
  • Other unusual circumstances exist.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Illinois's Arson laws. See also Insurance Fraud.

Code Section Criminal Code section 720 ILCS 5/20-1.
What is Prohibited?

Arson: Knowingly using fire or explosives to damage any property worth $150 or more without the owner's permission. Residential Arson: Knowingly using fire or explosives to partially or totally damage someone's residence. Place of Worship Arson: Knowingly using fire or explosives to partially or totally damage any place of worship. Aggravated Arson: Arson where: 1) the perpetrator knows that one or more persons are inside the building; or 2) where any person suffers great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement; or 3) where a fireman, policeman, or correctional officer on duty at the scene is injured.

Type of Crime Felony. Arson is a Class 2 Felony. Residential or House of Worship Arson is a Class 1 Felony. Aggravated Arson is a Class X Felony.
Punishment A Class 2 felony (arson) carries a 3 to 7 year prison sentence. A Class 1 felony (residential/house of worship arson) is punishable by a 4 to 15 year prison sentence. A Class X Felony like aggravated arson carries a mandatory prison sentence of 6 to 30 years in prison. In some cases, the sentence can be as high as 30 to 60 years.

Because arson laws can sometimes get complicated and because laws are always changing, it may be a good idea to consult an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney if you have questions about your specific situation and the law. If you suspect someone of arson, contact the statewide Arson Hotline, (800) 252-2947.

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