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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

9.3-1  Arson in the First Degree -- § 53a-111

Revised to December 1, 2007 (modified June 13, 2008)

The defendant is charged [in count __] with arson in the first degree.  The statute defining this offense reads in pertinent part as follows: 

a person is guilty of arson in the first degree when, with intent to destroy or damage a building (he/she) starts a fire or causes an explosion, and <insert appropriate subsection:>

  • § 53a-111 (a) (1):  the building is inhabited or occupied or the person has reason to believe the building may be inhabited or occupied.

  • § 53a-111 (a) (2):  any other person is injured, either directly or indirectly.

  • § 53a-111 (a) (3):  such fire or explosion was caused for the purpose of collecting insurance proceeds for the resultant loss.

  • § 53a-111 (a) (4):  at the scene of such fire or explosion a peace officer or firefighter is subjected to a substantial risk of bodily injury.

For you to find the defendant guilty of this charge, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

Element 1 - Started or caused fire or explosion1
The first element is that the defendant started or caused a fire or explosion. To "start" means to commence.  To "cause an act to be done" is to bring it about.  The fire started need not be a tremendous one.  The mere striking of a match can be the start of a fire.  The fire or explosion must be incendiary in origin.  That is, it must not be accidental or caused by carelssness.  In considering whether the fire or explosion was incendiary in origin, you may rely upon all the facts and circumstances at the time and place of the fire or explosion, as you find them to have been proved, and may draw any reasonable or logical inferences from such facts.  The mere fact that there was fire or explosion damage to a building does not create an inference that its origin was incendiary.

Element 2 - Intent
The second element is that the defendant specifically intended to destroy or damage a building.2  A person acts "intentionally" with respect to a result when (his/her) conscious objective is to cause such result.  <See Intent: Specific, Instruction 2.3-1.>

Ordinarily, "building" implies a structure that may be entered and used by people as a residence or for business, or for other purposes involving occupancy by people, whether or not it is actually entered and used as such.  <Insert one or both of the following parts of the definition as appropriate:>

  • The law has expanded this definition to include, in addition to what we ordinarily know as a building, any watercraft, aircraft, trailer, sleeping car, railroad car, other structure or vehicle or any building with a valid certificate of occupancy.

  • The statutory definition also provides that where a building consists of separate units, such as, but not limited to separate apartments, offices or rented rooms, any unit not occupied by the defendant is, in addition to being a part of such building, a separate building. 

Element 3 - Additional factor
The third element is that <insert as appropriate:>

  • § 53a-111 (a) (1):  the building was in fact inhabited or occupied or defendant had reason to believe that the building was inhabited or occupied and nevertheless started the fire or caused the explosion.

  • § 53a-111 (a) (2):  any person other than the defendant was injured either directly or indirectly.  This could include an accomplice.3  The statute does not require that the injury sustained be serious, but the injury must nevertheless be real.  The injury may be a direct or indirect consequence of the fire or explosion, but there must be a causal relationship between the fire or explosion and the injury.  Also, the defendant need not have intended to cause the injury.4

  • § 53a-111 (a) (3):  the defendant caused the fire or explosion for the purpose of collecting insurance proceeds.  In other words, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's reason for causing the fire or explosion was to collect insurance proceeds.

  • § 53a-111 (a) (4):  at the scene of the fire or explosion, a (peace officer / firefighter) was subjected to a substantial risk of bodily injury.  A "substantial risk of injury" is one that is real, considerable or material.5  <Insert appropriate definition:>

    • A "peace officer" means

      • a member of the division of state police within the department of public safety or an organized local police department.

      • a chief inspector or inspector in the division of criminal justice.

      • a state marshal while exercising authority granted under any provision of the general statutes.

      • a judicial marshal in the performance of the duties of a judicial marshal.

      • a conservation officer or special conservation officer.

      • a constable who performs criminal law enforcement duties.

      • a special policeman for state property.

      • a special policeman for investigating public assistance fraud.

      • a special policeman for utility and transportation companies.

      • an adult probation officer.

      • an official of the department of correction authorized by the commissioner of correction to make arrests in a correctional institution or facility.

      • any investigator in the investigations unit of the office of the state treasurer.

      • any special agent of the federal government authorized to enforce the provisions of Title 21 of the United States Code. 

    • A "firefighter" means any agent of a municipality whose duty is to protect life and property therein as a member of a duly constituted fire department whether professional or volunteer.

Conclusion

In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant started or caused a fire or explosion, 2) (he/she) intended to destroy or damage <identify the building>, and 3) <insert appropriate additional factor>.

If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of arson in the first degree, then you shall find the defendant guilty.  On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty.
_______________________________________________________

1 State v. Houle, 105 Conn. App. 813, 818 n.4 (2008) (on the meaning of incendiary); State v. Gaines, 36 Conn. App. 454, 458-59 (1995) (on the meaning of "causing a fire").

2 State v. Chasse, 51 Conn. App. 345, 367-72, cert. denied, 247 Conn. 960-61 (1999).

3 State v. Pellegrino, 194 Conn. 279, 285 (1984).

4 State v. Newton, 59 Conn. App. 507, 517, cert. denied, 254 Conn. 936 (2000) (firefighters injured when their fire truck was struck by a motorist).

5 State v. Dubose, 75 Conn. App. 163, 174-75, cert. denied, 263 Conn. 909 (2003).

Commentary

Subsection (a) (3) and (a) (4) are separate and distinct offenses.  State v. Woodson, 227 Conn. 1, 9 (1993).

Criminal mischief is not a lesser included offense of first degree arson.  State v. Chance, 236 Conn. 31, 54-57 (1996).
 


 

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