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41 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 290 (1950-1951)
The Crime of Arson

handle is hein.journals/jclc41 and id is 302 raw text is: THE CRIME OF ARSON

Paul Sadler, Jr.
The following article is from a thesis the author prepared while pursuing his
studies in Social Relations at Harvard University, from which he received his A.B.
degree in June, -1950. Mr. Sadler is currently employed as a fire investigator
adjuster for the General Adjustment Bureau, Inc., Boston, Mass.-EDrroR.
The crime of arson is an extraordinarily complex one by its definition
alone. Its complexity makes many difficulties to the student. It also
gives the perpetrator some advantages. To begin with, arson, like
murder and most admirality crimes, exists in several degrees of indict-
ment. These degrees are wholly dependent upon the type and use of
the structure or property burned, degree of involvement of participants,
and often the time of day in which the crime is committed.' But
what degrees now exist are only created by modern statutory defini-
tion over and above the original common law of England, which law,
in comparison with 20th century statutes, seems very defective in scope.
Yet the need for a wide and broad coverage in the protection from
arson has only recently, in terms of the history of English and American
law, been necessary at all. Why? The reason is that originally English
common law defined and limited the crime of arson only to the malicious
burning of the dwelling house of another. Note the restrictions of the
words dwelling and another. The common law dearly was aimed
at, first, assuring the security of habitation, and secondly, at assuring
the security of habitation of all the general public with the exception
of the dwelling house of one's self.
Curtis writes, Using the language of Sir William Blackstone,
'Arson, ab ardendo, is the malicious and willful burning of a house or
outhouse of another man.' Sir Edward Coke had, before the time of
Blackstone, expressed his conception of arson as 'the malicious and vol-
untary burning the house of another by night or by day.' The courts,
when seeking a definition of common law arson, have generally adopted
that of Blackstone, declining to include the redundancy 'by night or by
day.' Other definitions make a slight variation in language, but no
change in substance, has occurred. Thus the offense has been defined
as 'the malicious burning of another's house'; or as the 'willful and
malicious burning of the dwelling house of another'; or as 'the volun-
1. The Model Arson Law now adopted in its main substance omits reference to the time
of day, it being considered now that the crime is as serious at one time as at another.

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