Arson is defined as the willful and malicious charring or burning of a structure or property. Arson laws also include certain vehicles, such as motor homes and boats. The criminal act typically involves intent to burn down property or structure, do property damage, or be reckless. Washington State has its own arson requirements to determine when a defendant is guilty of arson in the first degree.

How Does Washington State Defined Arson in the First Degree?

Arson in the first degree is maliciously and knowingly causing an explosion or fire which creates a dangerous situation for other people, as well as damaging property.

How Does the State Defined Building in an Arson Charge?

In Washington State, a building is defined as two or more units either occupied or separately locked and secured.

Does Washington Require Specific Damage be done to the Property or Structure to be Charged with this Crime?

Yes. Damage in an arson charge generally means: 

  • Scorching
  • Charring
  • Burning
  • Some damage to devalue the property because of the arson

What if I Don’t Cause Damage to the Property?

An arson charge only results when a person causes some type of damage to the structure or property. If there’s no damage, then the defendant cannot be charged with arson.

Will I Be Charged with Arson in the First Degree if I Recklessly Caused the Fire at a Property?

No. Arson in the first degree charge requires intent to commit the crime. Recklessness is different from intent, because it means the person was careless or didn’t value the safety of human life or property.

A person who recklessly causes fire damage to a property or structure can be charged with a separate type of arson charge, known as reckless burning in the first or second degree.

Will I Be Sent to Prison if I am Convicted?

Yes. Arson is considered a class A felony and is punishable by life in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

Should I Contact a Lawyer to Help Me?

Yes. Contact a Washington criminal lawyer to understand how to resolve this charge.