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Tennessee Arson Laws

The offense of arson is an example of a very dangerous crime that can have serious implications even beyond property damage, such as personal injury or death. The exact definitions may vary from state to state, but arson typically involves a person purposefully setting a fire to damage or destroy property.

In Tennessee, an individual commits arson if they intentionally or knowingly damage any structure by means of a fire or explosion. The charges can be elevated to aggravated arson if people are present or if anyone suffered any serious bodily injury.

Reckless Burning

Besides violating Tennessee's arson laws, a person can also commit another lesser fire-related offense referred to as "reckless burning." This occurs when a person engages in the following:

  • Recklessly starts a fire on the land, building, structure or personal property of another;
  • Starts a fire on the person's own land, building, structure or personal property and recklessly allows the fire to escape and burn the property of another; or
  • Knowingly starts an open air or unconfined fire in violation of a burning ban.

An Explanation of Tennessee Arson Laws

When conducting legal research, you want to make sure that you understand everything in the relevant statutes. One way to enhance your comprehension is to refer to an easy-to-read guide that explains the statutes in plain language. Read on for a guide to arson laws in Tennessee.


Tennessee Code Annotated:


Arson Offenses


Arson: An individual intentionally or knowingly damages any structure via fire or explosion:

Arson of a place of worship: A "place of worship" refers to a structure with the following conditions:

  • Approved by the state board of equalization for property tax exemption based on ownership and use of the structure by a religious institution; and
  • Used regularly as the site of congregational services or activities for worship purposes.

Aggravated Arson

Aggravated Arson:

  • 1 or more persons are present; or
  • When any person (including fire fighters and law enforcement officials) suffers serious bodily injury due to the fire or explosion.

Possible Penalties

Arson: Class C felony, punishable by 3-15 years in prison, fines up to $10,000.

Arson of a place of worship: Class B felony, punishable by 8-30 years in prison, fines up to $25,000.

Aggravated arson: Class A felony, punishable by 15-60 years in prison, fines up to $50,000.

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.

Tennessee Arson Laws: Related Resources

Facing Arson Charges in Tennessee? Discuss your Case with an Attorney

Arson is a very serious crime with severe ramifications including damage to your record, costly fines, and incarceration. Anytime your freedom is in jeopardy, then you should consider consulting with legal counsel. A criminal defense attorney can assess your case and can help you determine the best way to defend against the charges.

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