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Criminal Jury Instructions

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9.3-4  Arson in the Third degree -- 53a-113

Revised to December 1, 2007 (modified June 13, 2008)

The defendant is charged [in count __] with arson in the third degree.  The statute defining this offense reads in pertinent part as follows: 

a person is guilty of arson in the third degree when (he/she) recklessly causes destruction or damage to a building of (his/her) own or of another by intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion.

For you to find the defendant guilty of this charge, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

Element 1 - Started or caused fire or explosion1
The first element is that the defendant intentionally started or caused a fire or explosion. <See Intent: General, Instruction 2.3-1.>

To "start" means to commence.  To "cause an act to be done" is to bring it about.  The fire started need not be a tremendous one.  The mere striking of a match can be the start of a fire.  The fire or explosion must be incendiary in origin.  That is, it must not be accidental or caused by carelessness.  In considering whether the fire or explosion was incendiary in origin, you may rely upon all the facts and circumstances at the time and place of the fire or explosion, as you find them to have been proved, and may draw any reasonable or logical inferences from such facts.  The mere fact that there was fire or explosion damage to a building does not create an inference that its origin was incendiary.

Element 2 - Recklessly
The second element is that (he/she) recklessly caused destruction or damage to a building.  A person acts "recklessly" with respect to a result or circumstances when (he/she) is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstances exist.  <See Recklessness, Instruction 2.3-4.>

The state must prove that the defendant caused destruction or damage to (his/her) own building or the building of another.  "Damage" is injury that lowers the value of the building or that impairs its usefulness.  There must be some damage to the building, regardless of how slight.

Ordinarily, "building" implies a structure that may be entered and used by people, as a residence or for business, or for other purposes involving occupancy by people, whether or not it is actually entered and used as such.  <Insert one or both of the following parts of the definition as appropriate:>

  • The law has expanded this definition to include, in addition to what we ordinarily know as a building, any watercraft, aircraft, trailer, sleeping car, railroad car, other structure or vehicle or any building with a valid certificate of occupancy.

  • The statutory definition also provides that where a building consists of separate units, such as, but not limited to separate apartments, offices or rented rooms, any unit not occupied by the defendant is, in addition to being a part of such building, a separate building. 


In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant started a fire or caused an explosion, 2) that fire or explosion caused destruction or damage to <identify the building>, and 3) that in doing so, the defendant acted recklessly.

If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of arson in the third degree, then you shall find the defendant guilty.  On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty.

1 State v. Houle, 105 Conn. App. 813, 818 n.4 (2008) (on the meaning of incendiary); State v. Gaines, 36 Conn. App. 454, 458-59 (1995) (on the meaning of "causing a fire").


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