Senator John Rafferty (R-44) and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) announced today that they will introduce legislation to significantly strengthen Pennsylvania’s arson laws.
“What happened in Coatesville in 2008 and 2009 was both stunning and horrifying,” said Senator Rafferty. “It is our responsibility to ensure that the justice system is equipped to suitably punish people who commit crimes like these.”
“Committing arson is despicable under any circumstance,” said Senator Pileggi. “It is unconscionable to set fire to a building knowing that someone is inside, or with the intent to injure someone. This legislation will ensure that the punishment fits the crime.”
Senators Rafferty and Pileggi thanked Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll, who reached out to them and other members of the Chester County legislative delegation with a proposal to amend the arson statute.
The legislation, which is expected to be introduced later this month, will create a new class of crime known as aggravated arson. A person can be convicted of aggravated arson if he intentionally starts a fire – or if he aids or pays someone else to start a fire – with the intent to cause bodily injury or knowing that someone was inside the property at the time.
Depending on the exact circumstances of the crime, a conviction for aggravated arson could result in a minimum sentence of five to 12 years in prison. Anyone convicted of multiple counts of arson would be subject to consecutive sentences.