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New Jersey Arson Charges NJSA 2C:17-1

04
Apr
2010

by in Criminal Defense

§ 2C:17-1. Arson and related offenses

In New Jersey, arson is either a crime of the first or second degree, depending on the facts of the case. A first-degree crime is punishable by 10-20 years in prison, while a second-degree is punishable by by 5-10 years.

a. Aggravated arson. A person is guilty of aggravated arson, a crime of the second degree, if he starts a fire or causes an explosion, whether on his own property or another’s:

  1. Thereby purposely or knowingly placing another person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
  2. With the purpose of destroying a building or structure of another; or
  3. With the purpose of collecting insurance for the destruction or damage to such property under circumstances which recklessly place any other person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
  4. With the purpose of destroying or damaging a structure in order to exempt the structure, completely or partially, from the provisions of any State, county or local zoning, planning or building law, regulation, ordinance or enactment under circumstances which recklessly place any other person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
  5. With the purpose of destroying or damaging any forest.

b. Arson. A person is guilty of arson, a crime of the third degree, if he purposely starts a fire or causes an explosion, whether on his own property or another’s:

  1. Thereby recklessly placing another person in danger of death or bodily injury; or
  2. Thereby recklessly placing a building or structure of another in danger of damage or destruction; or
  3. With the purpose of collecting insurance for the destruction or damage to such property; or
  4. With the purpose of destroying or damaging a structure in order to exempt the structure, completely or partially, from the provisions of any State, county or local zoning, planning or building law, regulation, ordinance or enactment; or
  5. Thereby recklessly placing a forest in danger of damage or destruction.

c. Failure to control or report dangerous fire. A person who knows that a fire is endangering life or a substantial amount of property of another and either fails to take reasonable measures to put out or control the fire, when he can do so without substantial risk to himself, or to give prompt fire alarm, commits a crime of the fourth degree if:

  1. He knows that he is under an official, contractual, or other legal duty to prevent or combat the fire; or
  2. The fire was started, albeit lawfully, by him or with his assent, or on property in his custody or control.

d. Any person who, directly or indirectly, pays or accepts or offers to pay or accept any form of consideration including, but not limited to, money or any other pecuniary benefit, regardless of whether any consideration is actually exchanged for the purpose of starting a fire or causing an explosion in violation of this section commits a crime of the first degree.

e. Notwithstanding the provisions of any section of this Title to the contrary, if a person is convicted of aggravated arson pursuant to the provisions of subsection a. of this section and the structure which was the target of the offense was a health care facility or a physician’s office, the sentence imposed shall include a term of imprisonment. The court may not suspend or make any other noncustodial disposition of a person sentenced pursuant to the provisions of this subsection.

f. Definitions. “Structure” is defined in section 2C:18-1. Property is that of another, for the purpose of this section, if any one other than the actor has a possessory, or legal or equitable proprietary interest therein. Property is that of another for the purpose of this section, if anyone other than the actor has a legal or equitable interest in the property including, but not limited to, a mortgage, pledge, lien or security interest therein. If a building or structure is divided into separately occupied units, any unit not occupied by the actor is an occupied structure of another.

As used in this section, “forest” means and includes any forest, brush land, grass land, salt marsh, wooded area and any combination thereof, including but not limited to, an open space area, public lands, wetlands, park lands, natural habitats, a State conservation area, a wildlife refuge area or any other designated undeveloped open space whether or not it is subject to specific protection under law.

As used in this section, “health care facility” means health care facility as defined in section 2 of P.L.1971, c. 136 (C. 26:2H-2).

g. Notwithstanding the provisions of any section of this Title to the contrary, if a person is convicted pursuant to the provisions of subsection a., b. or d. of this section and the structure which was the target of the offense was a church, synagogue, temple or other place of public worship, that person commits a crime of the first degree and the sentence imposed shall include a term of imprisonment. The term of imprisonment shall include a minimum term of 15 years, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole. The court may not suspend or make any other noncustodial disposition of a person sentenced pursuant to the provisions of this subsection.

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