Arson, the criminal act of setting fire to property, can fall under two categories in California.
- The first is known as “malicious arson” which is always charged as a felony and considered a violent crime.
- The second is “reckless burning” of property which could be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor.
If you have been charged with arson, contact Sacramento criminal defense attorney Alin Cintean for consultation today. Depending on the extent of the harm caused, your previous convictions and the intent behind the act, the penalties can vary.
- For a misdemeanor, your penalties could consist of probation, fine and up to one year of county jail.
- Felonies have more severe penalties. It can consist of formal probation, fines and up to 9 years in prison.
- Additionally, you can get a possible strike on your record under California’s Three Strikes Law. This strike will only apply if you are convicted of malicious arson.
Malicious arson is composed of a few different elements.
- The first is setting property to fire. Keep in mind, any kind of damage, no matter how minor, satisfies this element. So even if you don’t completely destroy the property, it will still fit under this element.
- The second element requires the fire to be set to some type of structure such as buildings, motor vehicles and forest land to name a few. A qualification to this element is that the property that is burned must have belonged to someone other than yourself.
Keep in mind, you can still be charged and convicted if you did burn your own property with the intent to defraud someone or entity or the fire results in injuring someone or damaging someone else’s property.
The last element is that it was done so willfully and maliciously. Malicious implies some evil behavior but it pertains to unlawfully committing the act of burning a structure, forest land or property to injure someone, defraud an insurance company, damage someone else’s property out of spite, jealousy, annoyance, revenge or another reason.