Burning of Personal Property

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The Burning of Personal Property under Massachsuetts criminal law makes it unlawful to willfully and maliciously set fire to, burn, destroy or injure by burning, or cause to be burned or otherwise so destroyed or inured, or aid, counsel or procure the burning of any personal property of another valued above twenty-five dollars ($25).  Under Massachusetts criminal law, the crime of Burning Personal Property may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 266, Section 5. 

What is Personal Property

The law recognizes two types of property: real property and personal property.  

Real property is generally considered real estate such as land and any structures built on the land.   Personal property is any form of property that is tangible, movable and not otherwise real property.  Examples include automobiles, boats, lothing, personal possessions, etc.  Under this law, there are other types of property such as a “pile or parcel of wood, boards, timber or other lumber, fence, bars or gate, stack of grain, hay or other vegetable product, or any vegetable product severed from the soil and not stacked, any standing tree, grain, grass or other standing product of the soil, or the soil itself.”  One may be guilty of Burning Personal Property of another or that which belongs to the defendant.

How to Determine Value

Massachusetts criminal law imposes a threshold value of $25.00 in order to arise to the crime of Burning of Personal Property.  The value of a destroyed or damaged item of personal property is a question of fact.  The court may arrive at the value of property in various ways. 

One way to determine the value of property is to look at the original cost of acquisition.  

A second way to determine value is to determine the replacement cost of the damaged or destroyed property.   A third way to assess value is to determine the fair market value of an item. 

The method of determining value can directly impact the calculation.   Attorneys should be familiar with these various calculation methods to determine property value when handling any form of arson case.

Legal Elements of Burning Personal Property

In order to be found guilty of Burning Personal Property under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following legal elements:

  1. the property in question was personal property, or a boat, or a motor vehicle, or a conveyance, belonging to another with a value exceeding twenty-five dollars ($25)
  2. the defendant set fire to, burned, or caused to be burned, or aided, counseled, or procured the burning of the property
  3. the defendant did so willfully, that is intentionally and not by accident
  4. that the defendant did so maliciously, that is, it was done with some wrong and unlawful motive and without excuse

Potential Punishment if Convicted of Burning Personal Property in Massachusetts

The potential consequences for Burning Personal Property, if convicted, in the Commonwealth may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 266, Section 5. 

A defendant convicted for this offense under either theory shall be imprisoned in the state prison for not more than 3 years or in a jail or house of correction for not more than 1 year.

If you have been charged with Burning a Personal Property and need expert legal representation, contact the Massachusetts Arson Lawyers at the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III call today at (508) 213-9113 to schedule a free consultation.