Arson is the legal term used to describe the crime of intentionally setting fire to a property. The crime of arson requires prosecutors to prove three elements.
The first element is that a person or persons set fire to, burned, or caused a building to be burned. The building does not have to be destroyed by the fire. Prosecutors need only prove that some portion of the building has been burned. The second element that prosecutors must prove is that the building is a dwelling house, structure that adjoined a dwelling house, or whose burning caused a dwelling house to be burned. Dwelling houses include all buildings where people live or reside. The building need not be occupied at the time of the fire, but the prosecutors must prove that the building was capable of being occupied as a dwelling. Finally, the third element that prosecutors must prove is that the defendant acted willfully and maliciously. An accident is not a malicious or willful act. Malice in the context of arson has been defined as acting with an evil disposition, or wrong and unlawful motive or with the purpose of committing an injurious act.
Because prosecutors are required to prove all three elements, a defense attorney need only cast doubt on one of the three elements. For example, a defense attorney to overcome the third element—that the accused acted intentionally—to prevent his or her client from being convicted. Accidental fires occur often and may be a tragic occurrence. Being charged with arson after your house as been unintentionally burned down is only exacerbating the tragedy you are already facing. A talented Massachusetts arson attorney can help to alleviate the stress you are under in such a situation.
A defendant charged with arson is facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if charged with felony arson or 2 ½ years in a house of corrections if charged with misdemeanor arson, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. Whether a defendant is charged with felony or misdemeanor arson depends on a number of factors. Some factors that will be taken into account include the amount of damage caused to the building by the fire, the amount of damage caused to neighboring buildings, whether a person was injured, whether a person was killed, the time of day the fire occurred, and the kind of building or buildings that was burned. Additionally, a higher charge can be expected if the defendant has a prior criminal history, insurance fraud was a motive, or if the person who set the fire was paid to do so.
If you are facing arson charges, you need a skilled Massachusetts arson attorney on your side to fight for you. Contact Attorney Cappetta today for a free consultation. Attorney Cappetta is a talented Massachusetts arson attorney who will be there to answer your questions and help you through the stressful experience you are facing.