San Diego Arson Defense Lawyer
Definition and Elements Of The Crime Of Arson
California arson crimes have recently escalated in both number and devastation. These crimes are responsible for the destruction of thousands of acres and hundreds of residences in San Diego County and throughout the state. This destruction results in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the local and state communities and governments.
Arson is the intentional burning of another’s property, and is a serious charge that carries substantial penalties. Sentencing length is dependent upon whether or not people were injured in the fire, as well as the extent of damage. Burning your own property is not considered arson, unless the damage spills over to someone else’s property, or you set fire to your own home to collect insurance money. Depending on the circumstances, you could either be charged with reckless or malicious arson.
Under California Penal Code Section 451, a person is guilty of “malicious” arson when setting fire to a structure, property, or forest land in order to annoy, injure, or defraud another person, or with the intent of committing a wrongful act.
According to California Penal Code Section 452, a person has committed “reckless” arson by consciously disregarding the unjustifiable and significant risk of setting fire to a structure, property, or forest land.
What Are The Penalties For Arson In The State Of California?
Arson is charged as a felony in California, and carries prison sentences ranging from 16 months to life in state prison, depending on the circumstances. Fines may also be imposed, and the offender will be required to register with law enforcement officials as an arsonist. In incidents that result in injury, or if the accused has a prior arson conviction, enhanced penalties will be imposed by the court.
California Penal Code Section 450-457.1 addresses the crime of arson. Per this statute, it’s illegal to willfully or maliciously burn a structure, piece of land, or forest, or to assist another in commission of the same. You can also be charged with arson for setting fire to your own property in an attempt to commit insurance fraud. Penalties will depend upon the type of arson offense you have been charged with.
“Malicious” Arson Penalties In California May Include:
- Up to three years imprisonment for setting fire to the property of another
- Up to six years imprisonment for setting fire to an uninhabited structure or forest land
- Up to eight years imprisonment for setting fire to an inhabited structure
- Up to nine years imprisonment for causing serious bodily injury as a consequence of arson
“Reckless” Arson Penalties In California May Include:
- Up to one year in county jail for setting fire to the property of another
- Up to three years in prison for setting fire to an uninhabited structure or forest land
- Up to four years in prison for setting fire to an inhabited structure
- Up to six years in prison for causing serious bodily injury as a result of arson
Aggravated Arson Penalties
If a person has been convicted of arson within the last decade, the new charge is elevated to aggravated arson. Total damage exceeding 6.5 million dollars, or destruction of five or more inhabited structures is also considered aggravated arson. For malicious arson, you could face up to an additional five years in prison for the burning of multiple structures, causing serious injury to a law enforcement official or firefighter, having one or more prior arson convictions, or causing serious injury to multiple victims. For reckless arson, you could face a three-year enhancement for the same aggravating factors.
Law enforcement officials and prosecutors punish these crimes to the fullest extent of the law. If you’ve been charged with arson, you should consult an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer immediately. A knowledgeable, experienced criminal lawyer can mean the difference between an arson case not being filed versus a long prison sentence, as well as having to repay the city or state for costs related to fighting and putting out the fire.
Even if charges are yet to be filed, if you’re under investigation an experienced attorney can make all the difference – helping you to avoid incriminating yourself or supplying law enforcement with information to build a case against you. Once charges are filed, a skilled criminal attorney can investigate the facts, determine weaknesses in the case, and create an effective defense strategy.
The San Diego Arson Defense Lawyers are committed to obtaining successful case results for clients facing criminal charges. Our legal team is capable of addressing all manner of criminal cases, including those involving felony and misdemeanor arson. We’re available to provide aggressive support against your criminal charges in order to secure a not guilty verdict in your case.
With more than 32 years of combined legal experience, the Law Office of Gregory Garrison is ready to fight for you. Call now to set up a free consultation.