Arson is the criminal act of willfully and deliberately setting fire to another person’s property. It is a serious offense in Maryland, and you may end up in jail for years if convicted. But what if you accidentally started the fire? Can you still be charged with arson?
The answer depends on the circumstances and facts of the case. Additionally, you may perceive your actions as unintentional, but the prosecutors could try to prove otherwise.
The elements of arson
To be charged with arson under Maryland law, you must have acted willfully and maliciously in the destruction of property or harm to others when you started the fire. Maliciously means acting with intent to cause damage, while willfully means you acted intentionally, knowingly and purposely.
Therefore, if you started the fire by accident, you are less likely to be charged with arson. It is important to note that if the prosecution has reason to believe that your actions were not unintended as you claim, you may be charged with arson. At this point, it will be up to the judge or jury to determine whether you committed arson.
You could be charged with other offenses
You may not be charged with arson if you accidentally started a fire that led to the destruction of property. However, you can face other lesser criminal charges or be held liable for the resulting damages.
Get experienced legal representation
An arson conviction can have permanent consequences on your life. Therefore, if you have been arrested for arson or related offenses, it’s best to seek legal guidance to help protect your interests and, possibly, avoid the harsh penalties of a conviction.