Starting a deliberate fire for the purpose of deliberately burning a building or structure is a criminal offense. This offense is called arson and it can vary in its severity. If people were inside the structure, then the charges are likely to be much more serious.
But what if you didn’t mean to start the fire? What if a campfire with friends just got out of control? What if you didn’t extinguish your cigarette properly? Could you still face arson charges?
Your frame of mind is important
Arson is defined by law as “To wilfully or maliciously set fire to a structure or the personal property of another”. The wording of the law clearly indicates that criminal intent must be present for arson charges to stick. So, the ignition of the flame must be deliberate and for the sole purpose of damaging someone else’s property.
Accidental fires may not go unpunished
While intent and maliciousness are necessary for arson charges, this doesn’t mean that accidental fires always go unpunished. There are laws in place in Maryland that can penalize individuals who have carelessly or negligently started or spread fires.
Both the physical and mental elements of criminal offenses are extremely important. Intent is not always necessary for some offenses to be criminal, but it is a requirement for the crime of arson. If you are being accused of intentionally starting a fire when you did not, then it’s important to come up with a defense strategy. Having legal guidance behind you will help you to do this.