Michael T. Cahill
Rutgers Law School
September 23, 2008
Criminal Law and Philosophy, 2008
Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 151
Criminalizing arson is both easy and hard. On the substantive merits, the conduct of damaging property by fire uncontroversially warrants criminal sanction. Indeed, punishment for such conduct is overdetermined, as the conduct threatens multiple harms of concern to the criminal law: both damage to property and injury to people. Yet the same multiplicity of harms or threats that makes it easy to criminalize "arson" (in the sense of deciding to proscribe the underlying behavior) also makes it hard to criminalize "arson" (in the sense of formulating the offense(s) that will address that behavior).
This article asks whether adopting one or more arson offenses is the best way for criminal law to address the conduct in question, or whether that conduct is more properly conceptualized, criminalized, and punished as multiple distinct offenses.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 15
Keywords: Arson, Criminal codes, Endangerment, Grading of offenses, Mischief, Property damage, Special part
JEL Classification: K10, K14
Date posted: September 24, 2008 ; Last revised: June 1, 2009