The act of maliciously and willfully charring or burning a structure or property is called arson. However, in Washington State, a person can also be charged with a type of arson based on criminal recklessness.

What is Criminal Recklessness?

Criminal recklessness is when a defendant knows or foresees the risks involved in doing, or not doing, a particular act. Here, the defendant knows and foresees the danger, but their action, or lack of action, puts people’s safety at risk and creates a possible property damage.

What is the Criminal Charge in Washington State Based on Criminal Reckless and Arson?

In Washington State, when a defendant set fire to a building/structure, but did so recklessly, they are charged with reckless burning in the first degree.

How Does Washington State Define Reckless Burning in the First Degree?

First degree reckless burning is defined as an individual recklessly and knowingly causing an explosion or fire and damage to a:

  • Structure
  • Building
  • Railway
  • Car
  • Vehicle
  • Aircraft
  • Hay
  • Watercraft
  • Grain
  • Standing or cut timber
  • Harvested or unharvested crop

Is there Any Defense to a Reckless Burning Charge?

Yes. A defendant can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that their sole intent was to damage or destroy for a lawful purpose. A defendant can also contend no one but the defendant owns or has interest in the property. But even if someone else did have interest, they consented to the defendant’s burning of the property. 

What is the Charge for First Degree Reckless Burning?

In Washington State, first degree reckless burning is charged as a class C felony.

What’s the Punishment for a Class C Felony Conviction?

A defendant convicted of first degree reckless burning can face up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Should I Contact a Lawyer about My Arson Charge?

Yes. You should contact a washington criminal lawyer about your reckless burning charge to see if the charge can be drop or reduce.