A reward of $5,000 is being offered for information on how a suspicious fire at an abandoned apartment building at 127 James St. started. Barre police, firefighters and the State Fire Marshall’s office are investigating the fire (see Worcester Telegram article)
In Massachusetts, the State Fire Marshall investigates when the fire is determined to be suspicious. Arson is a serious crime in Massachusetts, which may carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years or a jail sentence of two of an half years or fine of 10,000 dollars if the fire is set at a “dwelling place” for example. Sentencing and punishments depend on several factors, and a serious factor, as mentioned, is whether the fire is set at a “dwelling place.” It’s important to remember that this can include all buildings used as dwellings such as apartment houses, tenement houses, hotels, boarding houses, dormitories, hospitals, institutions, sanatoria, or other buildings where persons are domiciled.
Whether a dwelling house is occupied or unoccupied at the time of the fire is immaterial. A charge of arson also still stands if the dwelling place is owned by the arsonist. The Barre building was an abandoned apartment building that had been unoccupied for 7 years. In an arson case, the prosecution must prove that the building was capable of being occupied at the time of the fire. When a building is burned, damage by charring is enough to establish arson.
If you are being charged with arson, you are being charged with a serious crime. It is difficult to prove malicious intent in arson, but the consequences of such a conviction are serious. Contacting a criminal lawyer to review the particulars of your case is strongly advised. Contact Murphy & Rudolf LLP 508-425-6330 for information on how we can help.