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Essay on Arson

0 September 09 2014, 22:00 in Criminal Justice System Essays

Essay on Arson

Arson is defined as the malicious and willful -burning or exploding of commercial and public buildings and structures. In proving arson, it is not necessary that the entire building is burned to the ground. The burning of a small part of the building or the structure is sufficient to constitute the crime of arson.

Many prosecutors say that arson is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute. There are several reasons for this. From the legal point of view, just like any other crime, it is necessary to prove criminal intent. It must be established that there is a specific intent to burn a dwelling or a malicious disregard that a specific action will lead to the burning of a building (Ronald J. Bacigal, 2009, 106). Intent to burn however is difficult to prove considering that it is a matter that pertains to the mind. Intent will have to be established based on the action of the suspect that will convince the jury or the judge that the suspect had the intention to burn the building or the structure.

However, aside from the legal requirement, there are certain practical considerations that should be taken into account in investigating arson. First, in arson cases, investigators often have difficulty in determining where the fire started. Knowing where the fire started is the very first step in the investigation before the investigators can find out how the fire started and who started it. It also helps in determining whether the fire in a building followed a normal burning pattern which is an indication of the presence of foul play (Hess & Orthmann, 2010, p.484). However, finding the origin of the fire is very difficult since when a building is burned it usually burns the other buildings within the vicinity. When many buildings are burned to the ground investigators will never know where the fire first started and how it started.

Second, the arsonists have enough time in the world to run away from the crime scene before the fire is even noticed. Experts say that fires do not start quickly. Before a fire even is noticed by the witnesses, it is usually the case that it is already too big and the arsonists is already as far away from the crime scene as possible. This makes the identification of the arsonist very difficult.

Third, even if the investigators do identify the origin of the fire, they may not be able to find any fingerprints that they could use to link the suspect to the crime scene. Getting evidence is crucial. If there are no witnesses, finding fingerprints on the crime scene may spell the difference between conviction and acquittal. However, the reality is that when a building is burned partially or totally, fingerprints can be smudged by fire or soot. Any other evidence on the crime scene can be burned.

Fourth, eyewitness in arson cases is not only rare but finding a motive for arson is also very difficult. Thus, prosecutors have to convince the jury that the suspect started the fire and that the fire could not have been caused accidentally. This is extremely difficult since the defendant only needs to cast doubt on the mind of the jury that the defendant was responsible for the crime.

Fifth, in arson, it is possible that the victim could also be the person responsible for the crime. This happens in cases when the arsonists seek to collect a substantial amount of money from the insurance companies. Thus, prosecutors cannot immediately rule out the victim from the list of suspects. Since there are many possible suspects, it makes arson all the more difficult for the investigators to prosecute.

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