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.
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.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.