Georgia Arson Laws

Police might arrest you for arson in Georgia if they believe you intentionally started a fire or set off explosives that damaged someone else’s property. The most important thing to remember about Georgia’s arson laws – and all arrest scenarios – is to remain silent until you have an attorney present. Anything you say during and after arrest can come back to incriminate you later. Politely decline to answer any questions, and don’t say anything except that you won’t talk until you have a lawyer.


Georgia’s arson laws are split into three separate statutes depending on the degree and severity of the crime. Police can charge an individual with arson in the first, second, or third degree. First-degree arson is the most severe charge, while third-degree is the least severe. An arson conviction in any degree, however, will end in at least one year of imprisonment. It’s extremely important to consult with a criminal defense attorney after an arson arrest in Georgia to protect your rights from the start. The three types of arson in Georgia are as follows:

  1. First-degree arson. Someone commits arson of the first degree if he or she knowingly uses fire or explosives to damage another’s dwelling, building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, or other structure without consent. This is true whether the structure was occupied or unoccupied. A person also commits first-degree felony if he or she uses fire or explosives to damage a structure under circumstances where endangerment of human life is reasonably foreseeable.
  2. Second-degree arson. A person might be guilty of second-degree arson if he or she, by means of fire or explosive, knowingly damages or helps another damage property that is not included under the stipulations of the first-degree arson law and that belongs to someone else, without the owner’s permission.
  3. Third-degree arson. If, by means of fire or explosive, a person knowingly damages, or encourages someone else to damage, personal property valued at $25 or more, if it belongs to someone else or someone else has a security interest in it, it’s insured against fire-related damages, or if done with intent to defeat or defraud the rights of a co-owner or spouse.

The punishment for first-degree arson is a fine of up to $50,000, imprisonment from one to 20 years, or both. Second-degree arson comes with fines up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of one to 10 years. Conviction of a third-degree felony can come with prison time of no less than one year and no more than five years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.


As you can see, any type of arson conviction comes with serious penalties that could change your life. All three degrees of arson are felonies in the eyes of Georgia law, resulting in a criminal record that could make it difficult for you to secure a job or housing in the future. The best thing you can do after an arson arrest is contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

One of the most common defenses to arson is proving that you had the property owner’s consent to burn or damage the property in question. However, this is not a possible defense if the charges stem from foreseeably endangering someone’s life, intending to injure the rights of a co-owner or spouse, or from the commission of a felony. Other possible defense strategies to avoid a conviction include having an alibi that does not associate you with the crime, refuting evidence, or throwing out the motive element. It’s absolutely essential to discuss your case with a knowledgeable defense attorney in Georgia.