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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

9.3-5 Reckless Burning -- § 53a-114

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

The defendant is charged [in count __] with reckless burning. The statute defining this offense reads in pertinent part as follows:

a person is guilty of reckless burning when (he/she) intentionally starts a fire or causes an explosion, whether on (his/her) own property or another's, and thereby recklessly places a building of another in danger of destruction or damage.

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 a fire or caused an 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 as to whether the defendant acted with the necessary intent. 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 - On property
The second element is that the defendant started the fire or caused the explosion on any property belonging to (himself/herself) or another person. It is not necessary that the state prove that the defendant owned the property.

Element 3 - Recklessly endangered building
The third element is that the defendant recklessly placed a building of another in danger of destruction or damage. 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.>

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.

Actual damage to a building of another is not required. The offense merely requires that the building be placed in danger of destruction or damage. It is not necessary that the state prove ownership of the property on which the fire was started or the explosion was caused, but the state must, however, prove that the building exposed to damage or destruction was owned by a person other than the defendant. The fire can be started on any property, but the property endangered must qualify as a building under the statutory definition previously provided.

Conclusion

In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant started a fire or caused an explosion, 2) the fire or explosion occurred on anyone's property, and 3) by doing so, the defendant recklessly placed a building of another in danger of destruction or damage.

If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of reckless burning, 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.
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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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