On May 23, 2016, Roslindale residents were shocked to awaken in the middle of the night to a fire at the nearby elementary school, according to the Boston Globe. The playground at the Charles Sumner Elementary School was intentionally set on fire. The fire spread from the playground to nearby trees and powerlines, but local firefighters were able to stop the blaze before it got out of control. Arson is suspected.
A smaller fire had been set at the same playground a few weeks earlier, but that first fire had not been linked to any particular perpetrator. However, three suspects were apprehended for the fire that occurred on May, 23 – two teenagers and an adult. The fire caused more than ten thousand dollars worth of damage to the playground. The suspects have been charged with intentionally setting a fire, arson.
Crimes Involving Fire in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has many laws against intentionally burning. Not only is the willful and malicious burning of a house dwelling, or a building adjacent to a house dwelling, considered arson, which is a crime under Mass. G. L. Chapter 266, Section 1, setting fire to a meeting house, or even setting fire to debris is prohibited by state law. Certain towns might permit seasonal open burning in their communities, but such burning activities are strictly regulated.
Defending Against Arson Charges
There are several defenses that could be raised against arson charges. Depending on your particular situation, some of the below defenses might be appropriate.
- The fire was an accident. An arson conviction requires that the criminal defendant willfully and maliciously set the fire. If the criminal defendant accidentally is responsible for causing the fire, then the defendant may not have had the requisite malicious intent, nor were his or her actions willful.
- Defendant has an alibi. It is possible that you are being falsely accused of setting the fire, and have an alibi that explains where you were at the time the crime was committed. Alibis should always be made as a defense, especially when there are corroborating witnesses who can testify in support of your alibi.
- The fire was set to something, and the charges should be downgraded. Setting fire to a person’s home is one crime, setting fire to a communal meeting place is another, and setting fire to wood or any other property is another crime altogether. These crimes are listed in decreasing order in terms of the severity of the crime, and their punishments vary accordingly. If you are charged with setting fire to a dwelling, or a building adjacent to a dwelling, but these charges do not accurately reflect the property that was set on fire, then the charges might be dropped.
- The evidence does not support willful intent. The evidence against the criminal defendant may be circumstantial, and may not be strong enough to demonstrate that the fire was set willfully and maliciously. Your criminal defense lawyer should question the science behind the prosecution’s evidence and should question the investigatory techniques used to procure the evidence.
Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney
Our Attorney has more than twenty five years of experience in criminal law, and has helped numerous criminal defendants fight the arson charges that they are up against. Please do not hesitate to contact Our Attorney