BURNING PERSONAL PROPERTY

BURNING PERSONAL PROPERTY, MOTOR VEHICLE, ETC.

This article will answer the following questions on the legal offense of unlawfully burning personal property, a motor vehicle, or other items:

  • What does Commonwealth law say on unlawful burnings?
  • How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of an unlawful burning?
  • What does it mean for a defendant to have acted “willfully”?
  • What does it mean for a defendant to have acted with “malice”?

What does Commonwealth law say on unlawful burnings?

 Commonwealth law states:

“Whoever willfully and maliciously sets fire to, burns, destroys or injures by burning, causes to be burned or otherwise so destroyed or injured, aids, counsels or procures the burning of, any personal property [belonging to another person and]…exceeding a value of twenty-five dollars…or any boat, motor vehicle…or other conveyance, whether belonging to himself or another…shall be punished…”

In other words, a person who willfully AND maliciously (ONE OR MORE):

  • Sets fire to
  • Burns
  • Destroys by burning
  • Injures by burning
  • Causes to be burned or otherwise so destroyed or injured
  • Aids, counsels or procures the burning of

…ANY personal property, or property belonging to another person, that is (ONE OR MORE):

  • Worth more than $25
  • A boat
  • A motor vehicle
  • Another “conveyance”

…whether belonging to himself or herself, WILL be punished.

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of an unlawful burning?

 In order to prove a defendant GUILTY of the offense of unlawfully burning personal property, a motor vehicle, or other items, the Commonwealth must prove ALL of the following four elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That the property in question was (ONE OR MORE):
    • Personal property belonging to another person with a value of more than $25
    • Aboat belonging to the defendant or another person
    • motor vehicle belonging to the defendant or another person
    • conveyance belonging to the defendant or another person
  • That the defendant (ONE OR MORE):
    • Set fire to or burned the property
    • Caused the property to be burned
    • Aided, counseled, or procured the property to be burned

 

  • That the defendant did so willfully—that is, intentionally and not by accident
  • That the defendant did so maliciously—that is, it was done with some wrong and unlawful motive and without excuse

What does it mean for a defendant to have acted “willfully”?

 In legal language, “willful”means intentionally and by design. Regarding this crime, this means the action(s) was not accidental or negligent. Note however that a person who negligently ignites a fire and then makes no attempt to extinguish or report it may be found in some circumstances as to have acted willfully.

What does it mean for a defendant to have acted with “malice”?

 That a defendant acted with “malice”does not necessarily require that he or she acted with any particular ill will against someone. A burning is malicious if is done with a wrong and unlawful motive or purpose OR if it is the willful doing of a harmful act without lawful excuse.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH AN UNLAWFUL BURNING, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

 

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES

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