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NCJ Number: 90059 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Major Pitfalls in the Prosecution of Arson
Author(s): C Rallis; J Porter; G J Stokarski; S Wilcoxon; F Mathe; M Price; M W Simmons; S Sandoval; C Madger; G S Totten; G T Troje
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 8
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Major pitfalls in the prosecution of arson are associated with failure to identify fires as arson, insufficient investigation of fires identified as arson, low conviction rates, and the excessive use of plea bargaining in arson cases.
Abstract: The failure to identify arson as the cause of a fire often lies in failure to conduct an adequate investigation past the point of fire origin. An effort must be made to increase the capabilities of investigating agencies within communities across the country. A second pitfall is the failure of an investigation to yield enough evidence for an arrest. Time-consuming investigations and an increasing number of cases inhibit a thorough examination of information that might lead to the construction of a case sufficient for the securing of an arrest warrant. Even in those cases where arrests are made, however, low conviction rates result. Some of the reasons for this are the circumstantial nature of the prosecution case, the prosecutor's limited knowledge of the scientific and technical aspects of arson investigations, and the range of defenses that can be used to challenge the circumstantial evidence of the prosecution. Because of the low conviction rate for arson cases, prosecutors are prone to plea bargain to secure a guilty plea on a lesser charge than arson. Unless guidelines are developed to regulate the use of plea bargaining, this may become the expected disposition in an arson prosecution, crippling the criminal justice system in its goal of rendering sanctions in accordance with the crime actually committed. Six footnotes are listed. Five bibliographic entries are provided.
Index Term(s): Arson; Arson investigations; Plea negotiations; Prosecution
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