U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Effective Use of Arson Immunity Laws

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 52 Issue: 8 Dated: (August 1985) Pages: 59-63,82
R J Jackson
Date Published
6 pages
This article discusses the utility of State arson immunity laws as a tool for improving the effectiveness of cooperation between insurers and law enforcement investigators.
Under the arson immunity laws, the insurer is required to report to the appropriate authority a fire that is believed to be nonaccidental and to provide official investigators access to all relevant information in the insurer's possession. The law also gives insurer's and their employees immunity from criminal and civil prosecution for responding. Official investigators may share received information with other investigative agencies working on the case. Information to which investigators have access under these laws include the insurer's files and claim documents or laboratory reports and the data in the Property Insurance Loss Register, a computerized countrywide and industrywide data bank. In arson investigations, it is important that the official investigators and insurance claims representatives pursue the case independently if evidence is to be admissible in criminal proceedings. While the insurance representative is not governed by technicalities arising from U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the official investigator must be careful to observe the rules governing search and seizure and interrogation. The official investigator may take evidence gathered by the insurer for use in criminal proceedings so long as each investigator acted on his own. Because arson is difficult to detect and no police department has unlimited resources, cooperation is needed between insurers and official investigators. The arson immunity laws make such cooperation possible.