Articles Tagged with arson

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. Continue reading

There are endless ways people start intentional and accidental fires. Automobile accidents, playing with matches, handling fireworks without exercising safety precautions, discarding cigarettes, overloading electrical outlets, oven fires, and furnace fires are just some examples.  

What are Arson Charges?

Arson is the deliberate act of setting a fire to property to cause damage or destruction of that property. In California, the district attorney will charge an individual with arson by considering the intent of the accused person and whether the harm caused by the fire was to people, property, or both. An arson charge can be basic or aggravated. The harm can be to any property, structure, or forest land. The main distinction between the two charges is the intent of the accused person.

Basic arson requires the accused person to have acted willfully and maliciously, set fire or burned or caused to be burned, any structure, forest land, or property. Aggravated arson requires the same actions by the accused person but also requires:

  • The specific intent to cause the injury or property damage
  • The accused had a prior conviction of arson within the past 10 years
  • The accused caused property damage or losses in excess of 6.5 million dollars.

What are Criminal Penalties for Arson Charges?

Arson is classified as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor is subject to up to a year in jail; while a felony is subject to over a year in jail. Below is a list of the most serious criminal penalties for arson charges. For information about your arson charge, contact the San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers.

  • Aggravated arson: Punishable by up to life in prison.
  • Arson causing injury to people called arson causing great bodily injury: Punishable by up to nine years in prison.
  • Arson causing injury to inhabited structures or properties: punishable by up to eight years in prison.
  • Arson causing damage to structures or forest land: punishable by up to six years in prison.
  • Arson of property and attempted: punishable by up to three years in prison.

What are Civil Penalties for Shoplifting Charges?

People convicted of an arson crime can also face up to $50,000 in fines and be required to pay restitution to the owner of the damaged property.

Charged Under California Arson Laws? Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

California offers pretrial diversion programs for first-time offenders as an alternative to prosecution. Eligibility depends on age and prior criminal record. Criminal charges under the pretrial diversion program are dismissed if the person successfully completes court mandated programs and conditions within a specified time frame. If you or a loved one is facing felony or misdemeanor arson charges, seek legal advice and legal representation from an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney. Continue reading

Earlier this weekend, a 23-year-old man named Carl James Dial from Palm Desert, CA, was arrested on on suspicion of committing a hate crime and arson in connection to a mosque in Riverside County, CA. On Friday afternoon, a fire was reported at the Islamic Center in Palm Springs. The fire was contained to the building’s front lobby, and no one was injured. The mosque is only 75 miles from San Bernardino, where the deadly shooting committed by Islamic extremists killed 14 people last month. It is the only mosque in Coachella valley.

In a statement released Friday evening, Congressional Rep. Raul Ruiz, whose district includes the area in which the mosque is located, called on authorities to investigate the fire as a possible hate crime. That same mosque was also hit by gunfire last November 2014 in what was also investigated as a possible hate crime.  

Mr. Dial was arrested and is being detained at the Riverside County Jail in Indio on suspicion of committing a hate crime, two counts of arson, one count of maliciously setting a fire, and one count of second-degree burglary. He is being held in lieu of a $150,000 bail. Authorities provided no details on how the fire was set. Mr. Dial is scheduled to appear in Court next week.

California Arson Law

California Penal Codes § 451 and 452 make it a crime to set fire to any building, forest land, or property willfully and maliciously or  recklessly. The punishment for arson in California depends on:

  • The type of property that was burned;
  • Whether someone was injured;
  • Whether you set fire willfully or only recklessly.  

Setting a fire recklessly is a misdemeanor, but it becomes a felony if someone is injured in the fire. Willful and malicious arson is always a felony in California, and you will even be charged with murder if you accidentally kill someone in the process (under the felony-murder rule).

California Hate Crime Law

California has its own specific statute which makes it a stand-alone crime to commit a hate crime. It is a felony to commit an act of assault or vandalism if your are motivated by one’s nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. Hate crimes are punishable by three years imprisonment for each act. See CA Penal Code 422.6. Continue reading