Harsher penalties for arsonists
Updated: Wednesday, April 3 2013, 10:56 AM EDT
LANSING, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Changes to Michigan's arson laws go into effect Wednesday and they could mean harsher penalties for offenders.
Under the changes, offenders could be sentenced to up to life in prison if convicted of arson.
Fire investigators and law enforcement officials say they hope the changes will help deter potential arsonists by making the punishment fit the crime.
The changes that increase the maximum prison sentences to up to and including life are:
- A newly added first degree arson charge, which includes any arson that results in physical injury or a fire that was set in a multi-unit structure like an apartment.
- Any arson where fraud was the intent.
Previously, Michigan's top arson penalty was 20 years for arson with no enhancement for causing injury.
We've had some high profile arsons here in West Michigan, including a deadly one in Battle Creek last November.
The fire broke out at a home on Young Street with three kids inside.
Rescue crews were able to save two children from the flames, but couldn't get inside to save 8-year-old, Karrina Johnson.
Police have said their mother's ex-boyfriend is a person of interest in the arson, but no one has been charged.
Also, for the first time the arson law specifically mentions aiding and abetting as a crime.
It also increases the fines for arson convictions.