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Arson And Malicious Burning

Arson is generally defined as the malicious and willful burning of nearly any kind of structure or property, not just a dwelling, without consent or with an illegal purpose. Arson has long been considered a heinous crime and, therefore, has historically been punished harshly. That is still so today; however, the most severe penalties are reserved for acts of arson in which death or serious injury results. Often, arson is committed as a means of financial gain. For instance, a person may set fire to his or her own property in an effort to defraud insurance companies. Other motives for arson may be for revenge or to cover up a crime.

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In Maryland, arson is defined as the intentional burning of a dwelling or other structure. A dwelling is any building that is intended for overnight occupancy, regardless of whether it was occupied at the time of the burning. A structure is defined as any building, vehicle, or watercraft that is not intended for overnight occupancy. Malicious burning is defined as the intentional burning of the personal property of another. The following table lists the punishments in Maryland for varying degrees of arson and malicious burning:


Type of Property Burned

Type of Charge

Maximum Fine

Maximum Jail Sentence

1st Degree Arson

Dwelling intended for occupancy or structure that is occupied



30 years

2nd Degree Arson

Unoccupied structure owned by another or by the suspect



20 years

1st Degree Malicious Burning

Personal property of another valued at $1,000 or more



5 years

2nd Degree Malicious Burning

Personal property of another valued at less than $1,000



18 months

Burning with Intent to Commit Fraud

Any type of property burned to commit fraud



5 years