DESTRUCTIVE VIOLENT CRIMES: ARSON, BOMBING, AND TERRORISM
Oklahomans understand first-hand how destructive violence like arson or bombing can have a devastating reach.
With our windy, dry climate, intentionally set fires can quickly grow into uncontrollable wildfires, destroying homes, devastating land, and endangering the lives of firefighters and residents.
We also know the tragic toll of domestic terrorism after witnessing the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City in 1995. That act of violence claimed 168 lives. Until the events of September 11, 2001, it was the largest act of terrorism on American soil since Pearl Harbor. It remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism.
Add our state’s experience with tragedy to the volatile foreign and domestic climate our nation faces today, and it is not surprising that Oklahoma doles out heavy penalties not only for acts of arson, bombing, and terrorism, but also for the mere threat of violence.
Oklahoma Arson Laws
Arson is the act of intentionally setting a fire for the purpose of destruction. In some cases, arson occurs as a type of insurance fraud: a person sets fire to a home or business in order to be shed of the property and collect insurance payment for it.
In other cases, arson is set simply for the thrill of destruction. While some wildfires in Oklahoma are started through carelessness, others are intentionally set.
Arson can also be an act of violence, with a fire intended to threaten or intimidate, or deliberately set in an attempt to cover up another crime.
Oklahoma law classifies all acts of arson as felonies. In 21 O.S. §§ 1401–1404, state law divides arson into four degrees, each penalized by the perceived severity of the offense:
- Arson in the first degree – setting fire to an occupied building, setting fire to a person, or any fire that occurs in an occupied building during the manufacture of a CDS. A meth lab explosion or fire, for example, is prosecuted as first degree arson, if anyone is present in the building when the fire occurs. The maximum penalty for first degree arson is 35 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- Arson in the second degree – If a person sets fire to an unoccupied building or if a fire occurs in an unoccupied building during the manufacture of a controlled substance, the charge is second degree arson. The maximum penalty for second degree arson is 25 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
- Arson in the third degree – If a person intentionally sets fire to any property valued at $50 or more, other than a building, or if a fire is started for the purpose of committing insurance fraud, he or she faces a charge of third degree arson. This felony offense is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
- Fourth Degree Arson – Attempted arson is charged as fourth degree arson. It carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Bombing and Bomb Threats in Oklahoma
Under state law, it is a felony to place an incendiary device, bomb, or explosive with the intent to destroy or injure.
In 21 O.S. § 1767.1, Oklahoma law prohibits several acts related to bombing, attempted bombing, or bomb threats:
- placing an explosive or incendiary device;
- detonating an incendiary device;
- possessing, manufacturing, selling, or transporting an explosive device, its component parts, or a simulated bomb with the knowledge that it will be used for destruction, injury, or intimidation;
- possessing, displaying, or threatening to use an explosive, incendiary device, or simulated bomb in the commission of a felony;
- making a bomb threat.
Each of the above acts is a felony punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison; however, if a bombing or explosion results in personal injury, the penalty is enhanced to 7 years to life in prison.
Terrorism, Terrorist Threat, and Terrorist Hoax
With our state’s experience with domestic terrorism, the national horror at the terrorist acts of 9/11, and the increasing acts of terroristic violence in the United States and around the world, both state and federal lawmakers take acts of terrorism and threats to commit a terrorist act very seriously. Because each and every threat of terrorism must be taken seriously, responding to a terrorist hoax can be disruptive and costly. Therefore, making a terrorist threat or committing a terrorist hoax is likewise punished severely.
The Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act is codified in 21 O.S. §§ 1268–1268.8. Under this Act, every act of terrorism is a felony. Terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism is punishable by a maximum of life in prison; if a person dies in an act of terrorism, the defendant is charged with first degree murder. If a person is convicted of biochemical terrorism, he or she is ordered to reimburse the cost of any emergency personnel, equipment, supplies, and other expenses incurred by the state as a result of responding to the incident.
Making a terrorist hoax is a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, any person convicted of the hoax must also make restitution to the victim and to reimburse the costs of responding to the threat.
Oklahoma Violent Crime Defense
Behind each of the above described acts lies intent to cause fear or destruction. If you are accused of arson, bombing or making a bomb threat, or terrorism or terrorist hoax, contact an experienced criminal lawyer to find out what options may be available for your defense against state or federal charges. Call (405) 417-3842 or submit our online form to schedule your free case review.