Articles Tagged with arson

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