Englewood, CO asked in Criminal Law for Colorado

Q: When could I be charged for my house fire under CO recklessness law?

In late July, I had a fire that started from an occult altar, possibly the cat knocking a candle over. It had multiple candles and was near alcohol. I was practicing this at the time but I am not anymore.

I had a fire limited to my condo, and no person got hurt except the cat who might have started the fire.

I was not at home during this, neighbors called it in. They said the fire was put out in an hour or less.

I was wondering if I might be facing charges? I have not heard of anything yet from the police saying such, and this was 5 months and a week ago. However, I struggle from extreme anxiety right now and am obsessing in my head.

I am extremely disappointed in myself already and know that I am lucky my neighbor called the fire department so quickly, as I live in CO and it is super dry and was very hot.

Could I still be facing a possible recklessness charge? I know the incident (fire report) marks it as accidental.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Sean Maye
Sean Maye
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Denver, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: Colorado law defines the crime of arson as intentionally, knowingly or recklessly setting fire to, burning, or using an explosive in order to damage or destroy your own property, or to damage or destroy the property of another without that person's consent.

Technically, what you've written here could be grounds for claiming you engaged in reckless arson by leaving several burning candles unattended near open alcohol containers such that a simple cat passing by could spark an apartment-wide fire. The fact that your neighbors' properties were not damaged is not the threshold question, as the statute also applies to damage to your own property in the same way.

Good new is that it would not be a felony, as that only applies to fires that are started intentionally or knowingly na/dor that endanger a physical person, none of which apply to what you've written here. At worst, it is a misdemeanor or petty offense, depending on the value of the damage.

All this said, it is not likely that you would be charged if no one else was harmed, no other person's property was damaged, and the damage was relatively well-contained within an hour. Nevertheless, the statute of limitations could be up to 3 years potentially, so maintain your right to silence for that period of time (or, better yet, forever) when speaking with any person associated with law enforcement.

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