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NY Penal Law § 150.15: Arson in the second degree

Arson involves damaging property by setting it on fire or causing an explosion. The structure can be a residential building, commercial building, a vehicle, or a watercraft that is used as overnight lodging or that is used to house a business. There are five degrees of the arson. Arson in the second degree is the second most serious. According to New York Penal Law § 150.15, you could be prosecuted for arson in the second degree if:

  1. You intentionally damage a building by fire or by causing an explosion,
  2. The building or vehicle was occupied at the time that you caused the fire or explosion, and
  3. You had reason to believe that the building was occupied.

In People v. Hendricksen, 2011 NY Slip Op 30880 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 2011), defendant Pierre Hendricksen entered a basement apartment where his ex-wife lived and set the apartment on fire by igniting a mattress with matches. The building contained several other apartments that were occupied on the day that Hendricksen entered the building. Hendrickson was arrested and later convicted of arson in the second degree. The second degree arson charge was based on the fact that other people were in the building at the time that the defendant set the fire and that the defendant had reason to know that other people were in the building.

Related Offenses
  1. Arson in the fifth degree: New York Penal Law § 150.01
  2. Arson in the fourth degree: New York Penal Law § 150.05
  3. Arson in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 150.10
  4. Arson in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 150.20

One important defense to a charge of arson is the second degree is that the defendant did not have reason to believe that the building was occupied at the time the fire was set.

In addition, it is also a defense that even if the defendant should have known that there was a possibility that someone might be in the building, there was in fact no one in the building when you caused the fire or explosion.


Arson in the second degree is a class B felony. You could be sent to prison for up to 25 years. It is further classified as a violent felony offense. This means that even if you have no prior felony convictions, if you are convicted of arson in the second degree you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison.

New York Penal Law § 150.15: Arson in the Second Degree

A person is guilty of arson in the second degree when he intentionally damages a building or motor vehicle by starting a fire, and when (a) another person who is not a participant in the crime is present in such building or motor vehicle at the time, and (b) the defendant knows that fact or the circumstances are such as to render the presence of such a person therein a reasonable possibility.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Because arson in the second degree is a class B felony if convicted you are likely to end up in prison for several years. Because your freedom is at stake, if you or a loved one are charged with arson in the second degree it is important that you immediately seek experienced legal guidance. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with arson as well as other serious crimes such as sexual assault, rape, harassment, menacing, and reckless endangerment. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of larceny in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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