NY Penal Law § 150.20: Arson in the first degree

by ECL Writer
Arson in the fifth degree

Arson is when someone intentionally sets something on fire or makes an explosion to harm property. There are five different levels of arson. The charge you will be given will depend on things like whether anyone was inside the building, whether anyone was hurt, and how the fire or explosion was started. Of the five arson offenses, arson in the first degree is the most serious. Arson in the first degree is one of the most heinous offenses in the New York penal code, along with kidnapping in the first degree and first-degree murder.

In accordance with New York Penal Code 150.20, you may be charged with arson in the first degree if you deliberately cause a fire or explosion to cause damage to property and:

  1. The fire or explosion is caused by a propelled incendiary device
  2. The fire or explosion is caused by an explosive
  3. The fire or explosion caused serious physical injury
  4. The fire or explosion was caused with the expectation or receipt of a financial advantage
  5. Someone was in the structure and you knew that it was likely that someone was in the structure


A plausible defense would be based on the victim’s injuries if the arson in the first-degree allegation is based on someone suffering a serious physical injury. A major bodily injury is one that poses a significant risk of death or results in long-term physical damage, according to New York Criminal Law section 10.10(10). The prosecutor would not be able to find you guilty of first-degree arson if you can prove that the injury was not substantial as the law defines it.

If accused of first-degree arson, one argument is that the fire was not intentionally started but rather occurred accidentally. You cannot be found guilty of third-degree arson if the fire or explosion was unintentional.


One of the rare offenses of Arson in New York that is a class A-I felony is arson in the first degree. If found guilty, you can be sentenced to life in jail. The mandatory minimum term would be 15 to 40 years.

New York Penal Law § 150.20: Arson in the First Degree

  • A person is guilty of arson in the first degree when he intentionally damages a building or motor vehicle by causing an explosion or a fire and when (a) such explosion or fire is caused by an incendiary device propelled, thrown, or placed inside or near such building or motor vehicle; or when such explosion or fire is caused by an explosive; or when such explosion or fire either (i) causes serious physical injury to another person other than a participant, or (ii) the explosion or fire was caused with the expectation or receipt of financial advantage or pecuniary profit by the actor; and when (b) another person who is not a participant in the crime is present in such building or motor vehicle at the time; and (c) the defendant knows that fact or the circumstances are such as to render the presence of such person therein a reasonable possibility.
  • As used in this section, “incendiary device” means a breakable container designed to explode or produce uncontained combustion upon impact, containing flammable liquid and having a wick or a similar device capable of being ignited.

Hiring A Lawyer in New York For Arson in the First-Degree Cases

If you are facing a charge of Arson in the First Degree in New York, it is important that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who has a deep understanding of the state’s laws and criminal justice system.

Here are some steps you can take to find the right lawyer:

  • Research lawyers who specialize in criminal defense and have experience handling arson cases in New York. You can do this by searching online or asking for referrals from friends or family members who have been through a similar experience.
  • Once you have a list of potential lawyers, schedule consultations to discuss your case and determine if they are the right fit for you. During these consultations, ask about their experience with arson cases, their success rate, and their strategy for defending you.
  • Consider the lawyer’s communication skills, responsiveness, and availability. You want someone who will be accessible and responsive to your needs throughout the legal process.
  • Make sure you understand the lawyer’s fee structure and any additional costs associated with your case. It is important to have a clear understanding of the financial commitment you are making.
  • Finally, trust your instincts and choose a lawyer who you feel confident will provide you with the best possible defense.

Remember, the consequences of an Arson in the First Degree conviction in New York can be severe, including lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines. So, it is essential to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer who can protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

Leave a Comment

This blog is ONLY for informational or educational purposes and DOES NOT substitute professional legal advise. We take no responsibility or credit for what you do with this info.