Different Types of Arson Charges

Florida provides for several different types of arson charges including:

  • Arson — First Degree § 806.01(1), Fla.Stat.
  • Arson — Second Degree § 806.01(2), Fla.Stat.
  • Arson — Fire Bomb § 806.111, Fla.Stat.

Definitions in Florida's Arson Statute

Under Florida Statute § 806.01(3), the term "structure" is defined to mean the following:

  • Any building of any kind.
  • Any enclosed area with a roof over it.
  • Any real property and its appurtenances.
  • Any tent or other portable building.
  • Any vehicle.
  • Any vessel.
  • Any watercraft.
  • Any aircraft.

Under Florida Statute § 806.01(1)(a), any person who willfully and unlawfully uses a fire or explosion to damage a dwelling is guilty of of the serious felony offense of arson. Arson can include starting a fire in a wide variety of different buildings and structures. The penalties are enhanced if the building or structure is occupied.

Under Florida Statute § 806.01(1)(b), enhanced penalties apply if the structure is an institution such as a school, department store, office building, business, church, hospital, nursing home, health care facility, jail, prison, detention center, and similar facility.

Arson - First Degree § 806.01(1), Fla.Stat.

One of the best ways to understand the criminal offense of arson is to look at the jury instructions for that crime. The jury instruction in section 12 for arson was adopted in 1981 and was amended in 1992 [603 So. 2d 1175] and 2013.

The criminal offense of arson in the first degree under Florida Statute Section 806.01(1) has several elements that must be proven at trial beyond all reasonable doubt, including the following::

  1. The defendant damaged or caused to be damaged any structure or the contents alleged by a fire or explosion;
  2. The damage was done either willfully and unlawfully OR the damage was caused while defendant was engaged in the commission of felony alleged (which can include burglary).
  3. The structure alleged was either a dwelling (if charged under § 806.01(1)(a)) or an institution in which the damage occurred during normal hours of occupancy or an where persons normally are present (if charged under § 806.01(1)(b)) OR a structurer (if charged under § 806.01(1)(c))
  4. The defendant knew or had reasonable grounds to believe the structure alleged was occupied by a human being.

Lesser included offenses of first degree arson include arson in the second degree under 806.01(2), attempted arson under 777.04(1) or criminal mischief under 806.13.

Arson — Second Degree § 806.01(2), Fla.Stat.

One of the best ways to understand the crime of arson in the second degree is to look at the jury instruction Section 12.2 which was originally adopted in 1981 and subsequently amended in 1992.

Under Florida Statute § 806.01(2), in order to prove arson in the second degree at trial the prosecutor for the State Attorney's Office must prove the following elements beyond all reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant caused to be damaged or damaged a structure alleged, owned by the defendant or another, by explosion or fire.
  2. Either the damage was done willfully and unlawfully or the damage was caused while defendant was engaged in the commission of a specifically alleged felony which can include burglary.
  3. The structure alleged is a structure as defined under Florida Statute Section § 806.01(3).

Arson — Fire Bomb § 806.111, Fla.Stat

The jury instruction for arson by fire bomb was originally adopted in 1981 and subsequently amended in 1989. In order to prove the crime of arson under Florida Statute § 806.111, the prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office must prove the following elements beyond all reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant possessed a fire bomb (alternatively, one of the following can be alleged - the defendant either manufactured, gave, loaned, offered to sale, transferred to, transported, disposed of, or offered to a specific person alleged a firebomb).
  2. At the time, the defendant intended that the fire bomb would be willfully and unlawfully used to damage by fire or explosion to any structure or property.

Definition of Fire Bomb under Florida Law

Florida law defines the term fire bomb under Florida Statute § 806.111(2)(b), to mean a "container containing flammable liquid, or combustible liquid, or any incendiary chemical mixture or compound, having a wick or similar device capable of being ignited or other means capable of causing ignition; but no device commercially manufactured primarily for the purpose of illumination, heating, or cooking shall be deemed to be such a fire bomb."

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