Arson (Crimes Against Property)

Arson: California Penal Code §451

One example of a crime against property is arson. While crimes against property are thought to be less serious that crimes with human victims, arson is taken extremely seriously in California, as the potential for extensive property damage and the risk to human safety is extremely high.

If the arson:

  • Causes an inhabited property, such as a home, hotel, or business to burn, you can face 3-8 years in prison
  • Causes great bodily injury to someone, you can face 5-9 years in prison
  • Is committed on a structure or forest land you can face 2-6 years in prison
  • Is committed on uninhabited property you will can 16 months-3 years in prison

The Penal Code also provides sentence enhancements that increase the exposure of prison time. Multiple burn victims, multiple structures, or injury to an emergency official can all add an additional 4 years onto the original sentence.

Ref: California Penal Code Section 451

A person is guilty of arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property. This crime requires that the person accused of arson acted with the specific intent to set the property on fire. Arson can be charged as a felony, and result in state prison.

A reckless action that results in the destruction of property by fire can also be considered arson under Penal Code §452. A "reckless action" does not require intent to destroy a particular structure, forest land, or property. It is an action considered to be so dangerous and so lacking regard for safety that it will be deemed to be criminal in nature if a fire results. This can include ignoring a substantial risk that may result in fire that a reasonable person would not ignore. An example of this may be throwing a burning cigarette into highly flammable dry brush. This would not include genuine accidents, such as forgetting to turn off the stove, or falling asleep with a candle burning.

It is extremely important to contact a criminal defense attorney if you are accused of arson. This is extremely important to protect yourself against exposure to state prison. An experienced attorney will help you prepare your best defense against the charges. David Diamond is a skilled criminaldefense attorney and will fight to have the charge against you dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.