There are two arson laws in California.
1. Penal Code 451 makes it a crime for a person willfully and maliciously to set fire to or burn any structure, forest land, or property. This charge is filed as a felony in California and the maximum punishment for this offense is custody in state prison for up to nine years.
Defenses may include lack of a willful act, that the fire was not started by arson, or that there was no intent to defraud (by way of arson).
2. Penal Code 452 makes it a crime for a person to recklessly set fire to or burn any structure, forestland, or property. This charge is filed as a misdemeanor in California and the punishments include up to six months in a county jail or prison, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Defenses may include that the defendant did not act recklessly, was falsely accused, and/or was arrested without probable cause.
If, however, reckless burning resulted in a burned structure or forestland, or in great bodily injury, then the crime may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The law office of H. Charles Gorian is experienced at fighting arson charges. We know the California laws that affect your situation and we are prepared to stand in your corner and battle for your legal rights. Our Murrieta-based law firm has helped men and women throughout Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Orange County, and San Diego County, and we may be able to help you.
One phone call could be the difference between harsh criminal penalties and freedom. Call or email our lawyer today for a free, no-risk, no-obligation case evaluation.