speising wrote:as the snopes page, which i finally managed to read, says, burning your own stuff isn't arson. thus, letting someone pay you for the right to burn your stuff isn't accessory to arson.
Technically, the Snopes page says, "Furthermore, destroying your own property isn't arson, as long as the act isn't intended to defraud anyone."
The act of filing the insurance claim is the intent to defraud, regardless of who did the burning.
In any case, IANAL, but I also wouldn't rely on Snopes for legal advice, either. To wit, Iowa Code 712
, which defines arson in the State of Iowa, also includes the following provision (emphasis mine):
Provided, that where a person who owns said property which the defendant intends to destroy or damage, or which the defendant knowingly endangers, consented to the defendant's acts, and where no insurer has been exposed fraudulently to any risk, and where the act was done in such a way as not to unreasonably endanger the life or property of any other person the act shall not be arson.
The first part of that statement agrees with Snopes, inasmuch as it's not arson if the owner of the property consents to the burning (you burning your own stuff would satisfy this) and there's no intent to defraud, but the clause that I bolded is what usually gets people in trouble. If you burn your house down and your neighbor's house burns as a result, it could be considered arson.
Most cities (and counties) have ordinances that regulate (if not ban) the burning of leaves, that regulate the location of fire pits and barbecue grills, and that prescribe conditions in which controlled burns are permitted. The burning of one's own house would run afoul of the vast majority of these ordinances. Most municipalities also require permits for controlled burns, if they even allow them. Some fire departments will use abandoned properties as training grounds for their personnel, but if it's in a densely-packed neighborhood or in an area with dense vegetation, it's not really possible to do.
In fact, because of the fact that burning a house creates quite a bit of smoke and heat, a local fire department would likely be called to the scene, at which point the local authorities will determine if you acted with disregard for the lives or property of others, especially if you didn't call them first (hell hath no fury like a local official scorned). More to the point, if you lived out in the country and decided to burn down your barn because, well, you're out in the country and it's your barn, the VFD showed up, and one of them was injured while fighting the fire, you could be charged with arson. You may still be charged with violating some local air pollution control measure, too, for that matter, it just depends on where you live, what you did, and who you know.