What is the Law on Arson in Massachusetts and What are the Punishments for it?
Fire can be caused accidentally or as a result of a natural disaster; however, when the fire is started on purpose to cause harm or destroy other person's property, it is regarded as a crime of Arson. The state of Massachusetts regards arson as an extremely serious crime, though the definition and treatment for this are treated differently from state to state. An attempted arson in Massachusetts is tried extremely seriously.
Investigation process for arson in Massachusetts
The state police detectives are the investigators for arson cases who may also use dogs and their handlers to accelerate the investigation.
But before the police detectives initiate the investigation, Massachusetts law requires the local fire department to look into the cause of the fire. It is under the fire marshal’s jurisdiction for finding the circumstances that led to the fire. A fire marshal is also required to investigate blast explosions, examine explosive devices or look at the scenes where there has been a loss to the state property.
Prosecution for arson in Massachusetts
There are broadly two levels of trial for this crime in Massachusetts.
A conviction for Arson 1
- The person being tried for this would have malicious intent for starting the fire
- The person acted intentionally
- The property destroyed in the act was a personal property
- The property cost more than $25 and belonged to another person
A conviction for Arson 2
In Massachusetts, charges for Arson 2 can only be proven when it can be confirmed that intentional assistance was provided for initiating fire to a house or a building. Under this conviction, the State will also have to prove that the person knew the arsenal and the crime, well in advance.
Arson penalties in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, the penalties of arson vary depending upon the involvement of the person in the act, criminal history, how much are the damages, and if there was a presence of any aggravating circumstance. Below is a glance of how a person can be charged:
- For an act of wanton - 2 – 2 ½ years of imprisonment along with a fine of three times the property value or $1500.
- For a malicious act – up to ten years of imprisonment along with a fine of three times the property value or $3000
- Restitution wherein financial assistance is provided to the victim in lieu of the damages caused
- Probation between 12 months – 5 years
Massachusetts Arson Statistics
The state law requires to maintain a detailed list of all fire causes, explosions, and burns so that an analysis can be conducted appropriately.
The Division of Fire Safety is notified about any fire that may have caused a loss to human life or a financial impact. The incident reports could be:
- Annual Fact sheets
- Annual reports
- Executive summaries
- Annual Country data
- Annual Suffolk County data
The fire incident reporting system releases this data to various government organizations like:
- The US Consumer Product Safety Commission which uses this data to identify explosive products
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which handles this data to identify products that may cause a fire in vehicles
- The National Fire Protection Association which uses this data for their analysis
Additionally, the State also requires that every dance hall, nightclub, bar, or discotheque should have a crowd manager for safety regulations. In case of any emergencies, a crowd manager is a person who helps in evacuation and otherwise keeps the building safe.
Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System (MBIRS)
The Massachusetts arson law has this system in place which helps in nabbing arsonists. The data related to burns is sent to hospitals using this tool. If a perpetrator goes to any hospital for getting burn treatment, the medical staff would beforehand have some information regarding the burns and how the perpetrator got them in the first place.