Picture of Fire taken by Benwatts
The crime of arson is the malicious burning of any man-made structure, regardless of whether it belongs to you or someone else. Originally arson was a law to protect people’s homes, just like that of the law against burglary. It has since developed over time through statutes. InMassachusettsthis crime now encompasses more than just protection from someone burning down your house. The definition of arson is much broader now and can be applied in many different situations.
Something that has always been a part of arson is the requirement of malice or willful intent. Setting fire to a building cannot be done by mere accident or even negligence and be considered arson. This requirement leaves out instances where you might accidentally leave a candle lit or the stove top on. Though you might incur other legal responsibility under those facts, you will not be guilty of arson. To prove that you maliciously set fire to something, the Commonwealth will have to prove that you had a motive of cruelty, hostility, or revenge. By statute in order to be guilty of arson you must also “set fire to” the structure or “cause it to be burned.” For a building to have enough damage, some part of it must be actually burned. Showing that there was charring is enough and it is not necessary that the building be completely destroyed by the fire.
Finally, the common law definition of arson has been expanded from households to all man-made structures. You can be found guilty for setting fire to your own house as well, as long as the other requirements are met, it no longer matters who owns the dwelling. Different statutes apply depending on the kind of building that is set fire to. For example, Massachusetts has a specific arson statute for dwellings that includes apartment houses, tenement houses, hotels, boarding houses, dormitories, hospitals, institutions, or anywhere else where people reside (see M.G.L. chapter 266 § 1). Another statute forbids the burning of a meeting house, church, court house, town house, college, academy, jail or other building (see see M.G.L. chapter 266 § 2). Arson covers a variety of structures and will be prosecuted under the corresponding statute.
For Arson Defense call Attorney Chan at 508-808-8902