|Posted:||May 10, 2013 03:19 PM|
|From:||Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr.|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Arson- Increasing penalties|
|In the very near future, I plan to re-introduce legislation (SB903) which creates a sentencing enhancement for our most serious Arson offenses and creates the new offense of Aggravated Arson. This legislation was amended last session with the help of numerous stakeholders and I plan to introduce the final version of the bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 47-2.
This legislation was drafted in response to a series of arsons in the City of Coatesville during 2007 through 2009. During this time, over fifty arson fires resulted in the arrest of five adults and one juvenile. While all of these individuals were convicted, sentence imposed by the court were limited by the language in the arson statutes and the applicable sentencing guidelines.
The Crimes Code classifies arson as a property crime. Therefore, courts do not treat the crime as seriously as violent crimes such as robbery or aggravated assault. However, it is my belief that each of these crimes was indeed the equivalent of a crime of violence.
Each fire occurred between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. Every fire was set to a home. In almost every case, residents of Coatesville were home when the arsonist struck. One victim died. Every fire required firefighters to respond to the scene. At least three firefighters were injured fighting these fires and hundreds were placed in immediate danger. One fire destroyed more than 15 homes and endangered over 80 residents who were home at the time. The entire city was terrorized.
The most serious offense available was one count of arson under 18 Pa.C.S. section 3301(a)(1)(i). The sentencing guidelines called for a 22 month sentence for each fire. One small fire only involving minor property damage was treated the same as a fire that destroyed 15 homes, cost $2 million and endangered hundreds of lives. Moreover, the judge was free to impose concurrent sentences for these two separate offenses.
My legislation would establish the following:
Introduced as SB1024