According to the United States Fire Administration, the crime of arson is the leading cause of fires that occur each year in the United States. Arson fires cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries to people and it is estimated that arson crime causes $1.4 billion dollars in property damage every year. Many arson fires destroy or damage outdoor areas, buildings, residential structures and motor vehicles. Arsonists often target vacant or abandoned buildings, especially in areas inhabited by the poor. Nearly half of all arson cases involve juvenile arrests.
As a result of the ongoing and serious problem of arson, federal and state authorities have sharpened their focus on arson prevention and have increased the aggressiveness in which they prosecute arson crimes within the criminal justice system. In Massachusetts, the crime of arson is a felony crime codified in M.G.L. c. 266 §5 that can be tried either in the district or superior court. The Massachusetts arson statute provides that anyone who willfully and maliciously sets fire to, or burns or otherwise destroys property or injures by burning any property, including any boat or motor vehicle shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years, or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than one year.
In order to convict a defendant of the crime of arson in Massachusetts, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following essential elements:
- That the property in question had a value exceeding twenty-five ($25) dollars;
- That the property that belonged to another person involved real estate, or personal property such as a motor vehicle or boat;
- The accused must have set fire to or burned the property, or caused the property to be burned, or aided, counseled another, or procured the property to be burned;
- The accused must have burned the property willfully, meaning intentionally and not merely by accident.
- The accused must also have burned the property maliciously meaning that the burning was done with an unlawful motive and without lawful excuse.
The crime of arson involves serious legal penalties that include the potential significant jail time, probation, restitution, fines, and fees and other collateral consequences to a convicted defendant such as the loss of certain licenses and employment. The charge is serious and a defendant accused of such crime needs serious legal representation by an experienced Massachusetts arson attorney. The prosecution of such crime involves the use of fire and other experts and a defendant must choose his or her legal representation wisely. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has been practicing criminal defense in Massachusetts for over 18 years and has the experience and legal skills necessary to defend your arson case. It is of the utmost importance to confidentially discuss your criminal matter right away with an experienced attorney and not to confide in and give statements to detectives and fire investigators who are only looking to build the strongest case for prosecution.
As a dedicated lawyer, Patrick Murphy is available 24/7 and he offers a free and absolutely confidential legal consultation for criminal defendants accused of crime. Contact Attorney Murphy today by calling him directly at (617) 367-0450 or by emailing him directly by filling out the email contacts tab on our website.