With protests breaking out all over the United States, it can be easy to get caught up in the emotions of the moment and go further than you intended.
Take care, though. Charges for disorderly conduct or resisting arrest are one thing — rioting and looting are a completely different beast, and you could face some serious consequences. Another serious crime that some are being charged with? Arson.
In this post, we’re going to cover what Illinois laws say about arson and provide some examples from recent events. We will also cover what the possible penalties are if you are arrested and charged with arson.
What Is Arson in Illinois?
In the most general of terms, arson is the destruction of property by setting fire to the property or possessions of another. The Illinois Compiled Statutes gives the following definition for arson:
“ A person commits arson when, by means of fire or explosive, he or she knowingly:
(1) Damages any real property, or any personal property having a value of $150 or more, of another without his or her consent; or
(2) With intent to defraud an insurer, damages any property or any personal property having a value of $150 or more.”
Even worse is Aggravated Arson. The Compiled Statutes provides the following definition for Aggravated Arson:
“A person commits aggravated arson when in the course of committing arson he or she knowingly damages, partially or totally, any building or structure, including any adjacent building or structure, including all or any part of a school building, house trailer, watercraft, motor vehicle, or railroad car, and:
(1) he knows or reasonably should know that one or more persons are present therein or
(2) any person suffers great bodily harm, or permanent disability or disfigurement as a result of the fire or explosion or
(3) a fireman, policeman, or correctional officer who is present at the scene acting in the line of duty is injured as a result of the fire or explosion”
What Are the Penalties for Arson in Illinois?
Arson is an extremely serious crime in the state of Illinois. Worth noting right now, it’s even worse if someone travels across state lines (for example, to attend a protest) and ends up being charged with arson. Police are taking these actions seriously, with over 2,000 arrested so far for rioting and looting-related offenses.
Arson is classified as a class 2 felony unless committed against a residence or a place of worship, whereby it becomes a class 1 felony. Aggravated Arson is a class X felony, the most serious felony there is in the state of Illinois. The punishment for these felonies is as follows:
- Class 2 Felony – between three and seven years in state prison, a fine not to exceed $25,000, or both
- Class 1 Felony – between four and 15 years in state prison, a fine not to exceed $25,000, or both
- Class X Felony – up to 30 years in state prison, a fine not to exceed $25,000, or both
In the event that a person has traveled across state lines to commit these crimes, the penalties can be even more severe. This is considered a federal offense and can carry major penalties if you are convicted.
As you can see, these are very serious offenses and can carry long prison sentences and high fines. It is important to think about your actions if you are involved in protests. Don’t get caught up with mob activity and make sure to stay away from areas where rioting and looting is happening. In the event you are charged with a crime, know your rights and contact legal help.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.