Arson occurs when an individual intentionally sets fire to a building, other structures, wooded areas, vehicles, or other property. Although arson is categorized as a property crime, it can result in personal injury or even death. Thus, it's considered one of the most dangerous crimes that you can commit. Beyond the basic definition, state laws treat arson differently in terms of specific charges and penalties.
Degrees of Arson in Missouri
Missouri divides arson into three degrees. Arson in the third degree is the least serious of the offenses and arson in the first degree is the most severe charge. Missouri also recognizes lesser charges of "burning and exploding" offenses.
Missouri Arson Laws at a Glance
The ideal way to learn about a statute's true meaning is by consulting with an experienced attorney. However, you can begin your legal research by reading a simplified version of the statutes. Read on for information about Missouri's arson laws.
Missouri Revised Statutes:
- Section 569.040 (first degree arson)
- Section 569-050 (second degree arson)
- Section 569-053 (third degree arson)
- Section 569.055 (knowingly burning/exploding)
- Section 569.060 (reckless burning/exploding)
- Section 569-065 (negligent burning/exploding)
First degree arson:
- Knowingly damaging a building by starting a fire or causing an explosion when any person is present and putting them in danger of death or serious physical injury; or
- Damaging a building by starting a fire or explosion in attempt to produce methamphetamine.
Second degree arson: Knowingly damaging a building by starting a fire or causing an explosion.
It's Not Second degree arson if:
- No person other than the perpetrator has a possessory, proprietary or security interest in the building or the person with interests in the building has consented; and
- The actor's sole purpose to destroy/damage the property was a lawful one.
Third degree arson: Knowingly starting a fire or causing an explosion and recklessly damaging or destroying a building as a result.
Burning or Exploding Offenses
Knowingly burning or exploding: Knowingly damaging another's property by starting a fire or causing an explosion.
Reckless burning or exploding: Recklessly starting a fire or causing an explosion and damaging/destroying another's property as a result.
Negligent burning or exploding: With criminal negligence, an individual damages another person's property/woodlands/croplands/prairie/marsh by:
- Starting a fire or causing an explosion; or
- Allowing a fire burning on lands in their possession/control onto the property of another.
First degree arson:
- Class B felony, punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.
- Class A felony, punishable by a life sentence if victim has suffered serious physical injury or death due to the fire/explosion related to methamphetamine production attempt.
Second degree arson:
- Class D felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison.
- Class B felony, punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment. If victim has suffered serious physical injury or death due to the fire/explosion.
Third degree arson: Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or fines up to $2,000.
Knowingly burning/exploding: Class E felony, punishable by incarceration of up to 4 years.
Reckless burning/exploding: Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail, fines up to $1,000.
Negligent burning/exploding: Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 15 days in jail, fines up to $750.
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.
Missouri Arson Laws: Related Resources
Charged with Arson in Missouri? Get an Attorney's Help
If you're charged with breaking Missouri's arson laws, then you should get help. Maybe you're facing second degree arson charges and the property owner consented and you had a proper and legal purpose for your action. Or perhaps the fire was accidental. Regardless of the specifics of your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney will work with you to mount a solid defense.