What is the difference between arson and aggravated arson?

In 2018, agencies from the U.S. reported over 36,000 arsons. More than 43% involved residences or other buildings, 23% were motor vehicles and other types of property accounted for 33% of all arsons. The average amount per arson came to over $17,000. 

Included in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s 2018 Crime in the United States report is the estimated number of arrests for arson. Government agencies made close to 2 million arrests. The majority involved property crime, but over 520,000 included violence. 


The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program characterizes arson as any intentional burning or attempts to burn a residence, someone’s personal property, motor vehicle, aircraft or other building with or without intent to defraud. The state of Illinois breaks it down further by adding: 

  • Place of worship arson 
  • Damages of personal property with a value of over $150 
  • Intent to defraud an insurer 

Place of worship arson occurs when a person deliberately damages any place of worship when committing the act of arson. 

Illinois considers arson a Class 2 felony, with residential and place of worship arsons listed as Class 1. A Class 2 felony includes a prison sentence of three to seven years and fines up to $25,000. Class 1 felonies have a four to a 15-year prison term with up to $25,000 in fines. 

Aggravated Arson

The state of Illinois extends the act of arson to include aggravated arson. The criminal code defines aggravated arson as the act of intentionally setting fire to a residence, school, watercraft, motor vehicle and: 

  • One or more people are inside the building, school, or vehicle 
  • Any person suffers an injury, disability or disfigurement 
  • A fireman, policeman or correctional officer sustains an injury 

Aggravated arson is a Class X felony, the most severe class of felony coming just under first-degree murder. A person charged with committing a Class X felony may serve from six to 30 years and a fine up to $25,000. For more egregious charges, imprisonment may extend to 60 years.