In early April a series of changes to Michigan Arson law took effect. Prompted by a perceived increase in arson,and by a lack of awareness that arson is a violent crime rather than a mere property crime, the new set of laws provides for stricter penalties, and more prosecutorial discretion.
The sentence was raised to a term of years or life for the following offenses:
- First degree arson. This newly created category includes any arson that results in physical injury and any arson of a multi-unit dwelling even when no injury results.
- Arson of an insured dwelling with fraudulent intent.
- Maliciously setting fire to mines, any material in an underground mine or a structure over a mine shaft.
Fines are now available penalties, where previously only prison terms applied. A person may be fined up to $20,000.00 for first degree fraud arson.
Arson crimes at common law included only the malicious burning of the dwelling of another. Many states have made dramatic modernizing changes eliminating the dwelling of another requirement, or changing the intent requirement. The changes are meant to bring Michigan in line with stricter federal arson punishments which carry a minimum penalty of 25 years in prison. Law enforcement hopes that higher penalties will serve as a deterrent.