Fires can start for many reasons, but when an individual deliberately starts a fire, he or she may be committing the crime of arson. As in most states, Texas considers arson to be a serious offense. Generally speaking, a person commits arson in Texas if they start a fire or cause an explosion with the intent to destroy property. There may be more serious charges if death or serious bodily injuries occur as a result of arson. Read on to find a more detailed explanation of Texas arson laws.
Conduct that Constitutes Arson in Texas
Several different circumstances can result in an arson charge. These can include fires intended to damage or destroy fences, vegetation, or structures on open-space land. Starting a fire with the intent to damage a home, building, or vehicle knowing that it is within city limits, insured, subject to a security interest (such as a mortgage) or located on someone else's property is also classified as arson. Additionally, it's considered arson if a person starts a fire with the intent to damage or destroy a house, building, or vehicle when he or she is reckless about whether it will endanger the life of another person or the safety of someone else's property.
It's important to note that arson occurs where there is either intent to cause damage or destroy, or where there is proof of recklessness in starting a fire. For example, an arson charge can result from recklessly starting a fire or causing an explosion while manufacturing a controlled substance, which results in damage to any vehicle, house, or building. As another example, a person can be charged with arson if he or she intentionally starts a fire that recklessly causes bodily injury or death, or damages someone else's building. One final important point to be aware of is that a person can be charged with arson in Texas even if the fire doesn't continue after ignition; thus, in many circumstances actual damage to property is not a required element.
Texas Arson Laws Overview
Below you will find key provisions of arson laws in Texas.
Texas Penal Code § 28.01, et seq.
Generally, arson is a felony of the second degree. However, there are certain circumstances in which it's classified as a different type of felony, as follows:
First Degree Felony: Fires which are intentionally started and which result in actual bodily injury or death of any person or which were intended to specifically damage or destroy a habitation or place of assembly or worship.
Third Degree Felony: Fires which are recklessly started while manufacturing a controlled substance and which result in actual bodily injury or death of any person.
State Jail Felony: Fires which are recklessly started while manufacturing a controlled substance and which damage any building, habitation or vehicle. Fires also constitute a state jail felony where they are intentionally started but which resulted in reckless damage or destruction to buildings or reckless injury or death.
In addition to the terms of imprisonment described above, a fine of up to $10,000 may be imposed (regardless of the degree of the felony).
- A person does not commit arson if a fire or explosion was part of controlled burning of open-space land.
- It is defense to arson if an individual obtained a permit/written authorization before starting a fire or causing an explosion within the city limits.
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.
Texas Arson Laws: Related Resources
You can learn more about laws related to this topic by clicking the links below:
Get Legal Help with Your Texas Arson Case
Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for arson can be severe. If you've been charged with arson in Texas, it may be a good idea to contact a Texas criminal defense attorney in your area to learn more about your rights and options.