Arson is a serious charge with severe consequences. Explosions and fire can lead to extensive damage and can also result in the injury or death of innocent lives. Because of this, laws surrounding arson are very strict. But you can fight an arson charge.
The crime of arson is committed when one willfully and intentionally sets fire to or burns a dwelling, storehouse, or vehicle. Typically it doesn’t include burning your own personal property unless you did so intending to defraud someone.
While most fires are accidental, if you’ve been charged with arson, having a strong defense will make all the difference in the outcome of your case. This article will discuss arson charges in Maryland and what you can do to fight an arson charge.
Arson in Maryland
Some believe arson isn’t a serious charge because it is a crime against property, not a person. However, first-degree arson is one of the most severe crimes. Many jurisdictions have their own investigative units devoted to arson and explosion cases.
In Maryland, you could be charged with first-degree or second-degree arson.
- First-Degree Arson — When someone maliciously and willfully burns or tries to burn a dwelling or structure of someone else when someone is inside the dwelling. A first-degree arson conviction is punishable by up to 30 years in jail and fines up to $50,000. (Md. Ann. Code §6-102)
- Second-Degree Arson — When one intentionally burns or attempts to burn a structure that is unoccupied and belongs to someone else, but it’s not a dwelling (such as a vehicle or commercial building). The penalty for a second-degree arson conviction is up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $30,000. (Md. Ann. Code §6-103)
Fighting an Arson Charge
It won’t be easy to fight an arson charge. But a qualified criminal defense attorney can help you build a case to fight the charges. Here are a few strategies your criminal defense attorney would recommend to fight an arson charge.
Lack of Criminal Intent
To prove an arson charge, the prosecution must prove that you intended to start the fire, which can be difficult. They must prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. If they can’t prove intent, there is no case.
Your attorney may be able to show that you started the fire accidentally. If you can prove this, you may be able to beat the arson charges.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
It can be difficult for the prosecution to provide a burden of proof in the instance of a fire. Even small fires destroy evidence, and in the case of arson, there may end up being no evidence that you were involved. This means the prosecutor is relying on theories to support his case instead of evidence.
There may also be a lack of witnesses to the crime. While there may be witnesses who saw the fire, rarely are there witnesses that saw the start of the fire. Without a witness, the prosecution has no one to say that you started the fire.
You may have been falsely accused of the crime. While there are many reasons someone may falsely accuse another person of arson, here are some of the most common reasons:
- They have committed insurance fraud by burning down their own property and now need someone else to blame it on.
- They started the fire accidentally and don’t want to face the consequences of their actions.
- For revenge or out of anger
The prosecution may try to use science to explain how the fire started. This is accomplished through expert testimony. But, even experts aren’t always right. If your criminal defense attorney can find expert witnesses to dispute the testimony of the prosecution’s witness, you may be able to beat an arson charge.
In arson cases, if you can prove that the fire was started by something else, you can use that as a defense. Some of the most common causes of fires are:
- Old, faulty wiring
- Heating devices such as space heaters
Let Jeremy Widder Law Help You Get Your Preferred Outcome in Court
Enlisting the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best thing you can do for your case. They will be able to advise you on what steps to take throughout the case and can help you build a strong defense against your arson charge.
When facing a criminal charge, the last thing you want to do is worry about defending yourself in court. The team at Jeremy Widder Law is ready to help. We are a law firm in Maryland, and have represented hundreds of clients charged with offenses from DUI to murder. Our goal is to get you your preferred outcome in court.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.