Anthony M. Salerno

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Anthony M. Salerno

Attorney At Law

Arson laws in Massachusetts

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2020 | Blog

Insurance Fraud and Arson

According to FindLaw, arson occurs when a person “willfully and maliciously” sets fire to physical property. For arson to occur, it must take place without the property owner’s consent and/or for the purpose of defrauding an insurer. 

Though state arson laws vary, each state, including Massachusetts, treats arson as a very serious crime. Individuals who face arson charges would benefit from understanding the various laws that govern arson charges in MA. 

Attempted arson  

Massachusetts recognizes attempted arson as a serious crime. The state defines attempted arson as the willful and malicious attempt to start a fire to another person’s property or personal belongings or assisting in such an attempt. For the purpose of prosecution, an “attempt” involves the act of placing a flammable device or substance near a building or property with the purpose of eventually burning said property. Simply attempting to commit arson can result in up to 10 years in state prison, or up to two years in county jail and a $1,000 fine. 


As previously mentioned, actual arson involves willfully and maliciously setting fire to another person’s real or personal property. However, Massachusetts categorizes arson offenses based on the character of the property damaged. The three categories are as follows: 

  • Dwelling House: House, apartments, boarding houses, dorms, hospitals, institutions, etc. 
  • Meeting House: Building designed for public use, including warehouse, courthouse, church, office building, bank, etc. 
  • Wood and Other Property: Wood, standing tree, hay, fence, grass or another person’s property with a value of more than $25 


The penalties for arson vary based on the type of property that sustained damage. If a person commits arson against a dwelling house, a conviction can result in up to 20 years in state prison, up to 2.5 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Arson committed against a meeting house carries a prison term of up to 10 years or a jail sentence of up to 2.5 years. Arson of wood or personal property may result in a state prison sentence of up to three years or a county jail sentence of up to one year and a $500 fine. 

Insurance fraud  

It is possible for a person to face jail time and fines for setting fire to his or her own property. According to FindLaw, property owners may do this to commit insurance fraud and collect quick money. If the state discovers that a person engaged in arson for the purposes of committing insurance fraud, it may charge him or her with both arson and insurance fraud.