Arson: A Common Crime in San Diego That is Hard to Prove

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and National Interagency Fire Center, the 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season in California. While these types of fires are natural disasters, there are times when fires happen on purpose through an act of arson.  

 What is an Act of Arson?

Arson is a criminal act of unlawfully and intentionally setting fire to any property. California law states that 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.

Examples of Arson

Acts of arson occur each day in San Diego and they are fairly common. Here are two examples of what the act of arson looks like:

  • A San Diego jury finding a transient guilty of murder by arson on July 20, 2019, according to an article by Herald-Mail Media.
  • The Cocos Fire in San Marcos in 2014, where a 14-year-old intentionally started a fire that destroyed 36 homes and caused $10.4 million in damage, according to a report by NBC News.  

Why do People Commit Arson Crimes?

The reasons why people commit arson are often left unexplained. Research suggests that the main reason why people commit arson is to profit. These people are looking to collect on an insurance policy and use the money for their own financial gain. According to a psychologist, anger is also a motivating factor behind arsons, particularly in California.

If I am Arrested for Arson, What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove?

If you get arrested for suspicion of committing an act of arson in San Diego, contact an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney with successful results in representing those involved in criminal matters.

It is difficult for the prosecution to prove that someone actually committed an act of arson. Arsons are difficult to prove because they are not obvious as to who or what caused the fire to start —  it could be a lit cigarette, a blown fuse or an electrical issue.

According to Cal Fire, San Diego brush fires are usually caused by accident. Just because someone walks away from or is near the place where a fire originates does not mean the person committed the act of arson. For a prosecutor to get a conviction of arson, he or she must prove not only that the defendant set the property, structure, forest or land on fire, but that the defendant’s act was willful and malicious.

This means that an act of arson must be committed on purpose with the intention of harming someone, injuring someone, or damaging property. Until the prosecution can bring evidence to prove the act, they do not have a case. 

In the Event You are Convicted of Arson, You Must Take This Step

California law, particularly Penal Code Section 457.1(a), requires a person convicted of arson to register with local law enforcement as a registered arson offender for the rest of his or her life. The person must update his or her contact or location records with law enforcement as well. This information is collected in an arson registry database maintained by the San Diego Metro Arson Task Force.

Arrested for an Act of Arson? We can Help

Contact David Boertje, the San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney, if you are arrested for arson. He will work to protect your rights and your freedom. Call 888-476-0901 or complete the form online for a free and confidential consultation.