Most people enjoy the comforts of a bonfire, assuming it's controlled and not meant to harm anyone or anything. But the use of fire in a malicious and destructive way, regardless of whether anyone is actually hurt by the act, is considered arson and carries stiff penalties. And if you think no one will find out if you set your failing restaurant on fire for the insurance money, for example, think again. Arson is investigated using very advanced chemical analysis techniques that are difficult to evade.
In addition to arson, Maryland's statute also criminalizes the willful and malicious burning to another's private property, such as a car or anything not considered a dwelling or structure. And with respect to the earlier example, Maryland prosecutors will charge you with an additional offense (on top of arson) if the act of setting fire to a building was done to defraud another, such as an insurer.
Maryland Arson Laws: The Basics
Specific details about arson and malicious burning laws in Maryland, including charges and penalties, are listed in the following table.
Maryland Code, Criminal Law § 6-101, et seq.
|Classification of Arson and Malicious Burning Offenses||
1st Degree Arson: To willfully and maliciously set fire to or burn a dwelling or a structure in or on which an individual who is not a participant is present.
2nd Degree Arson: To willfully and maliciously set fire to or burn a structure that belongs to the person or to another.
Malicious Burning: To willfully and maliciously set fire to or burn the personal property of another.
Setting fire to or burning property of any kind with the intent to defraud another (misdemeanor; up to 5 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000 -- in addition to penalties for an arson or malicious burning charge).
Threatening, verbally or in writing, to set fire to or burn a structure; or explode a destructive device in, on, or under a structure (misdemeanor; up to 10 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000).
Willfully and maliciously setting fire to or burning the contents of a dumpster or trash receptacle that belongs to another (misdemeanor; up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500).
|Sentences and Penalties||
1st Degree Arson: Felony; up to 30 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000
2nd Degree Arson: Felony; up to 20 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $30,000
1st Degree Malicious Burning: Felony; up to 5 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000
2nd Degree Malicious Burning: Misdemeanor; up to 18 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500
Upon conviction, offenders typically are ordered to pay restitution for any damage caused by the arson, which may include any costs incurred by the fire department (see Criminal Procedure § 11-603 for details about restitution).
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Maryland Arson Laws: Related Resources
Charged with Arson in Maryland? Speak with an Attorney
Arson is a very serious crime, particularly due to the unpredictably destructive nature of fire and its propensity to endanger lives. If you've been charged with arson, malicious burning, or any other the other related crimes involving fire or explosives, it's in your best interest to contact a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and start preparing your defense.
Contact a qualified attorney.