Abandoned Fire Under Utah Criminal Statute § 76-6-104.5
The offense of abandoned fire under Utah Code § 76-6-104.5 requires a showing that the circumstances did not amount to the criminal offenses of causing a catastrophe, arson, or aggravated arson. Instead, the offense of “abandoned fire” can be charged if the person leaves a fire under the following circumstances:
- without first completely extinguishing the fire; and
- with the intent to not return to the fire.
A defense to the charge arises if the person leaves the fire in order to report the fire to authorities because the fire has become uncontrollable. In many circumstances, the prosecutor will attempt to argue that the fact that the fire reignited or spread is “prima facie evidence” that the person did not completely extinguish the fire.
The potential penalties depend on the amount of damage caused. If no property damage occurs as a result of the fire then the offense is a class C misdemeanor. If property damage of less than $1,000 is caused by the fire then the offense is a class B misdemeanor. If property damage is $1,000 in value or more than the offense is a class A misdemeanor.
If the abandoned fire involves a wild land fire, then the person charged can also be found liable for suppression costs under Utah Code § 65A-3-4.
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