New law will punish 'aggravated arson'

Posted: February 08, 2014

HARRISBURG Legislation crafted to address deadly arsons such as the one that took the life of a Coatesville woman six years ago is poised to become law.

A spokesman said Thursday that Gov. Corbett would sign a bill creating the crime of "aggravated arson" to address those who set fires to buildings while knowing that someone is inside.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. John Rafferty (R., Montgomery) also will strengthen Pennsylvania's arson laws by setting tougher sentencing guidelines.

Rafferty said the 30 Coatesville arson fires in 2008 and 2009 that displaced dozens of families and terrorized the community shows the crime is more than just insurance fraud.

"Criminals who deliberately set fires that can kill people must face tougher penalties," Rafferty said. "This legislation recognizes the severity of this crime and sends a clear message to those who endanger property and life by committing arson."

The bill will also increase penalties if a person is injured, and allows for stronger sentences if more than three people are inside the property.

"What happened in Coatesville could happen again in any community, so we need to take action to prevent more needless death and destruction," Rafferty said. "I am pleased that Pennsylvania is taking a stand against this deadly crime and those who commit it."


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