If the police believe you set fire to something, you could face two main charges – arson and malicious burning.
Arson is the more severe offense and, as such, carries harsher potential penalties. Maryland law divides each of those charges into two again.
First-degree arson means to set fire to a building with someone in it
If there is no one in it, the charge will drop to second-degree arson. In both cases, the fire needs to be started “wilfully and maliciously.” In other words, you need to be trying to harm someone or their property.
Penalties range from:
A maximum of 20 years of prison and a maximum of $30,000 fine for second-degree arson, up to 30 years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines if convicted of first-degree arson.
Malicious burning charges again require the element of intention to do harm
However, they are typically used for property other than buildings. For example, setting a light to someone’s vehicle or an area of their land.
In this case, the penalty depends on the amount of damage done. If it is over $1,000, it warrants a first-degree malicious burning charge. You could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If less than $1,000, it becomes second-degree malicious burning with a maximum sentence of 18 months and $500.
Prosecutors often push for the more severe charges to force you into accepting a plea deal on a lower offense. You always have a chance to overturn the charges altogether if you get experienced legal help.