Under Illinois law, arson occurs when a person uses fire or explosives to intentionally damage another person’s property. Given the inherent danger of arson — especially fire’s ability to spread quickly — there are strict penalties against arson in Illinois. In certain severe situations, using fire or explosives can result in criminal charges for aggravated arson.
Illinois Laws and Penalties for Arson
The Illinois laws and penalties for arson appear under 720 ILCS 5/20-1. There are essentially three different types of arson crimes in Illinois — arson, residential arson and place of worship arson.
First, a person commits the standard version of arson if he or she knowingly uses fire or explosive to:
- Damage at least $150 of another person’s property without consent; or
- Defraud an insurer by damaging at least $150 of another person’s property.
Arson is a Class 2 felony in Illinois. The penalty structure for this class of offense usually includes confinement for three to seven years, fines up to $25,000 and probation for up to four years.
Second, a person commits residential arson if he or she knowingly uses fire or explosive to damage the residential dwelling of another person. This offense applies whenever a person partially or totally destroys a residence or dwelling while committing arson.
Residential arson is a Class 1 felony in Illinois. The penalty structure for this class of offense usually includes confinement for four to 15 years, fines up to $25,000 and probation for up to four years.
Place of Worship Arson
Third, a person commits place of worship arson if he or she knowingly uses fire or explosive to damage a place of worship or similar religious establishment. This offense applies whenever a person partially or totally destroys a place of worship while committing arson. Place of worship arson is a Class 1 felony in Illinois, featuring a typical penalty scheme that aligns with residential arson.
Illinois Laws and Penalties for Aggravated Arson
The Illinois laws and penalties for aggravated arson appear under 720 ILCS 5/20-1.1. There are two elements to aggravated arson under Illinois law.
First, a person must commit arson and knowingly inflict partial or total damage on a specific type of building, structure or vehicle. For example, it could qualify as aggravated arson if a person knowingly burns a:
- School building;
- House trailer;
- Motor vehicle; or
- Railroad car.
Second, the presence of certain factors is required to transform arson into aggravated arson. In order for the aggravated version of this offense to apply, the offender must:
- Know, or have a reason to know, that at least one person is present in the building, structure or vehicle;
- Cause serious physical injury or disability to another person as a result of the fire or explosion; or
- Injure a police officer, firefighter, or correctional officer as a result of the fire or explosion.
Aggravated arson is a Class X felony in Illinois. The penalty structure for this class of offense usually includes confinement for six to 30 years and fines up to $25,000. Probation is not available for Class X felonies in Illinois.
Do You Need Legal Help?
No matter what the criminal offense, all charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in matters of criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing an online form.
(image courtesy of Yaoqi Lai)