The definition of arson: criminal setting of fires, deliberate burning of property, destruction of property by fire, fire-raising, firing, incendiarism, malicious burning of property, set conflagration, willful burning of property.
The sentence for arson: As of 2011, in the United States, the minimum sentence for Arson in the third degree, which encompasses fires intentionally set to vehicles, buildings or homes that did not cause bodily harm, is three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Arson in the second degree is defined as aggravated arson, which entails the defendant setting fire to a structure to cause damage or bodily harm or to collect money. It carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
Arson in the first degree is also known as arson for hire. The defendant is paid to set fire or cause an explosion. This crime leads to a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years and a fine up to $200,000.
I have written several articles on the subject of arson and my strong opinion for stronger sentencing guidelines are well known with those who follow my blog.
For me, it’s very simple; if a fire is set that fits the legal definition of arson, which is the decision/choice made by the arsonist, then the appropriate sentencing guidelines should be followed without exception.
With all of that said, in a recent, local arson case, I was shocked by the logic used by the judge in sentencing the arsonist in this case.
The news article can be viewed here.
Rock Island County Judge Walter Braud sentenced the 28 year-old female to FOURTEEN DAYS in jail for ARSON!
Did I say “logic” earlier? That was a misnomer. There was no logic used in his sentencing guidelines.
The female had a prior, criminal record for writing bad checks and for using counterfeit money. These are not little “poo-poo” crimes. They are both serious felonies.
Yet, Judge Braud decided to apply little gravity to her previous crimes.
Along with the 14 day sentence, which he allowed her to serve on week-ends; he sentenced her to 3 years of conditional discharge and one year of probation. There was no fine, because she was “working” with the insurance company for restitution for the $30,000 of damage to the house.
I have news for her: the insurance company would have SUED her had she not began “working” with them.
So, let’s re-cap:
1) Arsonist sets fire to her boyfriend’s house to “scare” him, because HE wanted to end their 9 month relationship.
2) The fire caused $30,000 in damage. We pass the threshold for 3rd degree arson.
3) Judge states in court that jealousy and betrayal fueled the female to set the fire and additionally claims that her reaction was “understandable” but not “forgivable”. There will be an increase in business for the brothers in the Quad-Cities, because the judge in this case green-lighted arson as a viable option to simply throwing someone’s stuff on the front lawn and changing the locks!
4) Judge states that HE believes that the fire was a “one time occurrence” and sending her to prison would negatively affect changes that she’d made in her life SINCE the fire that included a “new boyfriend, college and a job search”.
5) Judge decides to “take a chance on her life”. Did anyone see anger management or substance abuse treatment as part of the judge’s “chance”?
6) Blogger’s Note: This will not be the end of this story.
This young lady got a gift from an activist judge. I don’t fault her at all. The judge ignored the facts that the fire could have spread to adjoining properties, firefighters could have been injured or killed while fighting the fire that she set and that the minimum should have been set at three years; not just for her, but for ANYONE who commits arson in the third degree.
I would be interested in hearing other diverse opinions.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, also known as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or any of their subsidiaries. All articles by the author are protected by copyright under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella and cannot be reproduced in any form without explicit permission from the article’s author.