Causing or Risking Catastrophe

Pittsburgh Arson Defense Attorneys

In Pennsylvania, causing or risking catastrophe is a serious felony offense that may be prosecuted as a first-degree, second-degree or third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances.

If you’ve been charged with causing or risking catastrophe, you may be feeling confused, overwhelmed and anxious about the prospect of criminal litigation.  We encourage you to get in touch with our team of Pittsburgh arson defense attorneys here at McKinney Law for guidance on how to proceed so as to avoid liability (or otherwise limit the penalties).

Understanding the Offense and Penalties

Section 3302 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes describes the two interlinked offenses of “causing catastrophe” and “risking catastrophe.”  Let’s take a brief look at the elements and penalties associated with each offense.

Causing Catastrophe

In Pennsylvania, a person can be held liable if they cause a catastrophe by explosion, fire, flood, avalanche, collapse of building, release of poison gas, radioactive material or other harmful or destructive force or substance or by any other means of causing potentially widespread injury or damage.  This is a first-degree felony if the person caused or risked catastrophe with intention or knowledge.  It is a second-degree felony if the person caused or risked catastrophe with reckless disregard for the consequences.

First-degree felonies in Pennsylvania are punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines, while second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines.

Risking Catastrophe

A person can be held liable if they recklessly create a risk of catastrophe in the employment of fire, explosives or other dangerous means.  This is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment and fines of up to $15,000 in total.

Intent, Knowledge or Recklessness Necessary for Conviction

Causing/risking catastrophe requires intent, knowledge, or recklessness.  If you did not intend to cause or create a risk of a catastrophe, or if you were not aware that your actions were causing or risking catastrophe, you cannot be held criminally liable for a first-degree felony of causing/risking catastrophe.  If you did not act recklessly, you cannot be held liable for a second-degree felony of causing/risking catastrophe.

For example, if you are performing groundwork in your backyard and you accidentally hit an old land mine buried beneath the soil (causing it to explode), you cannot be held liable for having caused or created the risk of catastrophe, unless prosecutors can show that you were aware of the land mine’s existence, or that you recklessly disregarded the risk of a possible land mine.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Experienced Pittsburgh Arson Defense Attorneys

If you’ve been charged with having caused a catastrophe (or creating a legitimate risk of a catastrophe), then you may be exposed to significant criminal penalties that could include up to twenty years imprisonment and fines of up to $25,000.  Causing or risking catastrophe is a severe offense in Pennsylvania.  As such, it’s important that you work with a team of attorneys who understand how to navigate the complexities of prosecution and put forth an effective defense on your behalf.

Here at McKinney Law, our experienced Pittsburgh arson defense attorneys have successfully handled  numerous arson and causing/risking catastrophe cases.  We are aggressive advocates for our clients and prepare for the possibility of criminal litigation.  This preparedness gives us the ability to act decisively and exercise substantial leverage during plea negotiations with prosecutors.

Interested in speaking with a qualified defense attorney about your case?  Call (412) 520-3301 or submit an online case evaluation form through our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.