Arson, which is a serious crime in all 50 states, can lead to a lengthy prison term and large fines. In Maryland, the possible penalties if convicted of first-degree arson include a 30-year sentence and fines of up to $50,000.
Those facing arson charges should know that if the prosecutor’s evidence is weak, you and your defense team may be able to challenge it and potentially avoid a conviction. What should you consider in their evidence?
Is it circumstantial?
Circumstantial evidence does not directly prove or disprove a fact. When prosecutors lack direct proof, they may introduce such evidence in hopes that a jury will view it and infer that the defendant committed the crime. A skilled defense team can poke holes in circumstantial evidence and perhaps persuade a jury to view the material as inconclusive.
Does it include witness statements?
An eyewitness who says they observed the defendant setting a fire should be feared, but what if they only saw someone with similar clothing or hair color? Prosecutors may rely on vague witness recollections if they lack other evidence. A defense strategy that casts doubt on obscure or unreliable eyewitnesses could strengthen your case.
Does the prosecution have “expert” testimony?
Introducing expert testimony from scientists or investigators is common in arson cases and can fill defendants with dread. Testimony about pour patterns or accelerants sounds irrefutable to defendants and jurors alike. However, a defense team can often chip away at expert testimony or introduce other experts to refute it.
It is sometimes hard for prosecutors to meet the burden of proof in arson cases. That means your outlook may be better than you think. By seeking experienced legal guidance as soon as possible, you can protect your rights and build a strong defense.