After a massive fire causes destruction or injury, one of the first issues to resolve is its origin. Sometimes fires are the result of a misfortunate accident, but it's considered arson when a fire is deliberately set and causes damage to property.
Types of Arson in Minnesota
Minnesota divides arson crimes into five degrees: arson in the fifth degree is the least serious of the offenses and first-degree arson is the most severe charge. Additionally, Minnesota recognizes arson of wildlife as a separate offense.
Minnesota Arson Laws at a Glance
The best way to understand what a statute truly conveys is by working with an attorney. Before you reach that step, you can get a handle on Minnesota's arson laws by referring to the chart below, which is a plain English guide to understanding the law, including links to the relevant statutes.
- Section 609-5632 (Fifth Degree Arson)
- Section 609-5631 (Fourth Degree Arson)
- Section 609-563 (Third Degree Arson)
- Section 609-562 (Second Degree Arson)
- Section 609-561 (First Degree Arson)
Fifth Degree; Fourth Degree; Third Degree
Fifth degree arson: A person that intentionally burns or causes to be burned any real or personal property is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days and/or fines up to $1,000.
Fourth degree arson: A person commits a gross misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or fines up to $3,000 if:
- They set fire to or burn or cause to be burned the personal property in a multiple unit residential building or public housing; and
- Arson in the first, second, or third degree wasn't committed.
Third degree arson: A person who intentionally destroys or damages any real or personal property may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 5 years and/or fines up to $10,000 if the property involved had a value of more than $300, but less than $1,000.
Second Degree; First Degree
Second degree arson: A person commits this offense, punishable by up to 10 years and/or fines up to $20,000 if they:
- Intentionally destroy or damage any building that isn't covered in first degree arson, regardless of value; or
- Any other real or personal property valued at more than $1,000 (whether it's the individual's property or another's).
First degree arson: A person commits first degree arson if they unlawfully/intentionally destroy or damage one of the following:
- Dwellings (regardless of the presence of the inhabitants) or any building appurtenant to or connected with the dwelling;
- Other buildings besides dwellings if the person knows or should know that there is a person inside at the time; or
- Other buildings besides dwellings if a flammable material is used to start or accelerate the fire.
All first degree arson crimes are punishable by up to 20 years incarceration and/or fines up to $20,000. The fine can increase to $35,000 if the person committing arson knew or should have known that someone was inside the building at the time of the arson.
- Section 609.5641 (Wildlife Arson)
- Section 609.576 (Negligent Fires; Dangerous Smoking:)
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.
Minnesota Arson Laws: Related Resources
Get an Attorney's Help for Your Minnesota Arson Case
You should always consider speaking to an attorney if you're accused of a crime. However, if you're facing arson charges in Minnesota, then you shouldn't delay contacting an experienced defense attorney due to the seriousness of the crime and the potential penalties that could come your way.