There are seven degrees of arson under Rhode Island law. The woman is charged with first degree arson, R.I.G.L. 11-4-2, the most serious type. First degree arson is defined as any person who knowingly causes, procures, aids, counsels or creates by means of fire or explosion a substantial risk of serious physical harm to any person or damage to any building the property of that person or another, whether or not used for residential purposes, which is occupied or in use for any purpose or which has been occupied or in use for any purpose during the six (6) months preceding the offense or to any other residential structure.
The penalties if convicted include imprisonment for not less than five (5) years and may be imprisoned for life, or shall be fined not less than three thousand dollars ($3,000) nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), or both.
If someone is killed as a result of the fire, then the penalties include to imprisonment shall be for not less than twenty (20) years.
First degree arson is capital offense in Rhode Island. A capital offense is any offense punishable by up to life imprisonment. Because the offense is a capital offense, evidence must be presented to a grand jury to determine if to issue an indictment. Pursuant to R.I.G.L. 12-12-1.1, an offense which may be punished by death shall be prosecuted by indictment. An offense which may be punished by a term of life imprisonment shall be prosecuted by indictment unless the defendant, with the consent of the attorney general and leave of the court, waives indictment, in which event it may be prosecuted by information.