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Is burning a trash container considered a crime?

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2023 | Criminal Defense

You may have heard the metaphor of a dumpster fire, usually used to describe a disastrous situation. But dumpster fires themselves can be chaotic. Like any live fire, a trash fire can cause damage to properties and even injuries. Worse, the waste material in trash containers can fuel these blazes, so the flames can quickly grow and spread.

Because trash container fires can become dangerous, Maryland has a law explicitly prohibiting the act. Anyone who violates the law can face punishment.

One man’s trash, another man’s fire

According to Maryland law, it’s illegal to “willfully and maliciously” set fire to the contents of a dumpster or any other similar trash receptacle that belongs to another person. A person who violates this law is guilty of a misdemeanor. On conviction, the person must serve up to 30 days in jail or pay a maximum fine of $500. Alternatively, a court can order the convicted person to both serve the sentence and pay the fine.

Trash fires can lead to arson charges

Those who face charges for starting a trash container fire could also be charged with arson. Arsonists target trash cans and dumpsters 11% of the time because the receptacles are often filled with things that can fuel the flames.

A conviction for arson in the second degree can lead to imprisonment of up to 20 years or a maximum fine of $30,000, or both. However, a conviction for arson in the first degree – defined as an arson attempt on a dwelling or a structure where people are inside – can lead to a 30-year imprisonment period or a maximum $50,000 fine, or both.

Burning a trash container is a crime

In conclusion, starting a fire in a dumpster is a crime. The act could also lead to much more serious arson charges. Regardless of whether the person started the trash fire as a prank, they might want to seek legal counsel for their case because a conviction spells heavy fines and decades in prison.