Arson is one of the most serious offenses a person can be charged with in Philadelphia. The majority of arson crimes are felonies under Pennsylvania law, and several are subject to statutory sentencing provisions that allow for above-average fines and prison sentences in the event of conviction.

Due to the grave consequences that can result from an arson charge or related offense, as well as the sophisticated forensic techniques required to investigate and analyze such crimes, it is imperative to be represented by a highly experienced Philadelphia arson attorney. If you or one of your family members was arrested for arson or related crimes in Philadelphia, whether of a home, apartment building, commercial property, or piece of land, you should contact an arson lawyer immediately for help. 

Aggravated Arson, Reckless Burning, and Related Offenses

Most people think of “arson” as the act of deliberately burning down a building or setting fire to a plot of land, sometimes for the purpose of fraudulently collecting insurance money for fire damage. However, the law distinguishes between multiple types of arson offenses. The specific crime a suspected arsonist will be charged with depends on factors like:

  • The defendant’s intent at the time of the alleged offense.
  • Whether the defendant reported, or made other efforts to control, the blaze.
  • Whether the offense endangered people or property.
  • Whether the property or item burned was “historic.”

Using these and other criteria, Pennsylvania law distinguishes between more than half a dozen different types of arson and related offenses. These distinctions are important for defendants, because they directly affect the penalties the defendant will face, such as jail or prison time, fines, and/or possibly probation. The Law Office of Lloyd Long handles an array of arson charges in Philadelphia, including:

  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(a) – Arson Endangering Persons
  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(a.1) – Aggravated Arson
  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(a.2) – Arson of Historic Resource
  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(c) – Arson Endangering Property
  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(d) – Reckless Burning or Exploding
  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(d.1) – Dangerous Burning
  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(e) – Failure to Control or Report Dangerous Fires
  • 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(f) – Possession of Explosive or Incendiary Materials or Devices

arson lawyer philadelphia

Is Arson a Felony in Pennsylvania?

Nearly all arson offenses are classified as felonies, which are more serious and therefore carry greater penalties than misdemeanors. There are only two arson-related offenses which are not felonies in Pennsylvania: failure to control or report dangerous fires, which is a misdemeanor, and dangerous burning, which is a summary offense. Summary offenses are the lowest level of crime and include offenses such as loitering and disorderly conduct.

It’s important to understand that there are several levels of felony offenses. Though all felonies are serious, some consequently carry lengthier prison sentences than others. The same is true of misdemeanor offenses.

Arson and related offenses are categorized, depending on the circumstances, as follows under Pennsylvania law:

  • Aggravated Arson
    • First Degree Felony
    • Murder of the Second Degree
  • Arson Endangering Persons
    • First Degree Felony
    • Murder of the First Degree
    • Murder of the Second Degree
  • Arson Endangering Property
    • Second Degree Felony
  • Arson of Historic Resource
    • Second Degree Felony
  • Dangerous Burning
    • Summary Offense
  • Failure to Control or Report Dangerous Fires
    • First Degree Misdemeanor
  • Possession of Explosive or Incendiary Materials or Devices
    • Third Degree Felony
  • Reckless Burning or Exploding
    • Third Degree Felony

As this list makes clear, nearly all arson crimes are felonies. Moreover, several forms of arson can lead to murder charges if the death of another human being results from the fire.

Arson Punishment in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania jail sentences and prison sentences are set forth at 101 Pa. Code § 15.66. For example, under 101 Pa. Code § 15.66(4), a third degree felony is subject to a prison sentence of up to seven years. The sentence for a second degree felony under 101 Pa. Code § 15.66(3) is up to 10 years.

Though 101 Pa. Code § 15.66 generally establishes the jail and prison sentences for criminal offenses in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s arson statutes create several enhanced, or extended, sentences for certain arson crimes. For example, a defendant who is convicted of aggravated arson may be sentenced to as many as 40 years in prison – twice the length of the 20-year maximum imposed for first degree felonies – if:

  • A civilian sustains serious bodily injury.
  • A firefighter or police officer sustains bodily injury.

“Bodily injury” is less severe than, and legally distinct from, “serious bodily injury.” “Bodily injury” simply means physical impairment or “substantial” pain, whereas “serious bodily injury” specifically means an injury that “creates a substantial risk of death or… causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”

Fines, as well as sentences, can also be enhanced for arson offenses in Philadelphia. Though Pennsylvania typically caps criminal fines at a maximum of $25,000 for felonies, the fine for certain arson crimes can be as high as $100,000.

Philadelphia Arson Defense Attorney

No matter what type of arson crime you have been accused of committing, skilled legal representation is essential to defending your rights, your reputation, and ultimately, your freedom. The sooner you contact the Law Office of Lloyd Long for assistance, the greater the likelihood of resolving your case favorably. To arrange a free legal consultation about arson charges or an ongoing arson investigation against you or a family member, contact Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lloyd Long for a free consultation.


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Philadelphia, PA 19103

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