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Are there degrees of arson in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jul 08, 2019 | 0 Comments

Yes. There are four degrees of the Nevada crime of arson (NRS 205.010 - 205.025), which is deliberately and unlawfully setting property on fire. First-degree is the most serious, and fourth-degree is the least.

Whenever the purpose behind the arson was to defraud an insurer, the defendant faces an additional category B felony under NRS 205.030. The sentence includes one to six (1 - 6) years in prison, restitution, and a fine of up to $5,000 (at the judge's discretion).

1. First-degree arson (NRS 205.010)

1st-degree arson in Nevada is willfully or maliciously setting fire to:

  • a building, house, or mobile home; or
  • personal property that is occupied by one or more people

It is irrelevant whether the suspect owns the property. An example of 1st-degree arson is setting a car on fire in attempt to get insurance.

1st-degree arson is a category B felony in Nevada. The sentence is

  • two to fifteen (2 - 15) years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • up to $15,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion), and
  • costs of extinguishing the fire, investigating the incident, and court costs

2. Second-degree arson (NRS 205.015)

2nd-degree arson is willfully or maliciously setting fire to an abandoned building or structure. It is irrelevant whether the suspect owns the property. An example of 2nd-degree arson is setting ruins from a Nevada ghost town on fire.

2nd-degree arson is a category B felony, carrying:

  • one to ten (1 - 10) years in prison, and
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion), and
  • costs of extinguishing the fire, investigating the incident, and court costs

3. Third-degree arson (NRS 205.020)

3rd-degree arson is willfully or maliciously setting fire to:

  • unoccupied personal property of another which has a value of $25 or more;
  • unoccupied personal property owned by the suspect but where another person has a legal interest; or
  • timber, forest, vegetation, or flammable material not belonging to the suspect

An example of 3rd-degree arson is setting another person's farmland on fire.

3rd-degree arson is a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence is:

  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison; and
  • up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion); and
  • costs of extinguishing the fire, investigating the incident, and court costs.

4. Fourth-degree arson (NRS 205.025; NRS 205.055)

4th-degree arson is willfully or maliciously attempting to set fire to property (irrespective of whether it would have been first-, second- or third-degree arson).

Attempted arson is a category D felony, carrying:

  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison; and
  • up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion); and
  • costs of extinguishing the fire (if any), investigating the incident, and court costs.

Fighting arson charges in Nevada

Two common defenses to arson charges in Nevada are:

  1. the defendant did not act willfully or maliciously (the incident was an accident); or
  2. the fire was a result of natural causes

Typical evidence in these cases include:

  • surveillance video of the fire starting;
  • weather reports indicating dry conditions;
  • eyewitness testimony; and/or
  • expert testimony

 As long as the defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt, criminal charges should not stand.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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