ARSON - Black's Law Dictionary

What is ARSON? Definition of ARSON in Black's Law Dictionary

At common law, the malicious burning of the house or outhouse of another. 4 Bla.Com. 220; Thacker v. Commonwealth, 219 Ky. 789, 294 S.W. 491, 492; State v. Berry, 188 La. 612, 177 So. 684, 686; Commonwealth v. Cooper, 264 Mass. 378, 162 N.E. 733, 734.

At common law burning buildings other than dwelling houses is not arson. Sawyer v. State, 100 Fla. 1603, 132 So. 188, 193. Part of building ignited sufficient to establish corpus delicti. State v. Caliendo, 4 A.2d 837, 840, 136 Me. 514.

At common law it must be the house of another. 1 Bish. Cr.Law, § 389; State v. Beckwith, Me., 198 A. 739, 742. But it is now an offense to burn one's own house under the statutes of New Hampshire, Arkansas, California, and other states. State v. Blumenthal, 136 Ark. 532, 203 S.W. 36, 37, L.R.A.1918E, 482.

Whether "house" or "dwelling house" be used in statute defining the crime may be of importance in determining whether occupancy is or is not an element. 1 Hale, P.C. 566, 567; Commonwealth v. Barney, 64 Mass. (10 Cush.) 478. Some states have expressly eliminated occupancy as an element, State v. Snover, 101 N.J.Law, 543, 126 A. 850 ; P.L. 1919, p. 257; while others have made it a distinction between degrees of the crime, People v. Abrams, 174 Cal. 172, 162 P. 395, 396.

In several states, this crime is divided into arson in the first, second, and third degrees, the first degree including the burning of an inhabited dwelling-house in the nighttime; the second degree, the burning (at night) of a building other than a dwelling-house, but so situated with reference to a dwelling-house as to endanger it; the third degree, the burning of any building or structure not the subject of arson in the first or second degree, or the burning of property, his own or another's with intent to defraud or prejudice an insurer thereof. State v. Jessup, 42 Kan. 422, 22 P. 627.


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