Arson is the willful and malicious burning of property whether private or public property. California law states that arson is a felony, being that all forms of arson are considered “strikes.” The variety of arson crimes is wide, ranging from setting fire to a property with fraudulent motives to setting fire to a property as a threat.
Law enforcement special arson units are tasked with investigating scenes of arson crimes. They use the most advanced technologies to pinpoint the origins of a fire. Investigations of this sort could take years to fully analyze. To help in rounding off an arson case, law enforcement investigates the motivations behind a crime. Some of the motivations for an arson crime include but are not limited to:
- An act of retaliation for cooperation with the police
- Domestic violence issues
- A cover-up to another crime including murder
- Financial gain, such as insurance fraud
If you are under investigation for an arson crime, then you need to contact an experienced arson trial attorney who has the expertise to defend you from this charge and prevent your conviction.
Punishments for arson vary depending on the gravity of the case. The Penal Code provides for the following punishments corresponding to certain cases of arson:
Penal Code Section 451(a) – Arson causing great bodily injury. This is a felony punishable with a prison sentence of up to 9 years. In a court trial, the prosecution must prove that the defendant willfully and maliciously set fire to and burned a structure that led to the bodily injury of another.
Penal Code Section 451(b) – Arson of an inhabited structure. This is a felony punishable with a prison sentence of up to 8 years. In a court trial, it must be proven that a defendant willfully and maliciously set fire and burned an inhabited structure.
Penal Code Sections 451(c) – Arson of a structure or forest. This felony is punishable with a prison sentence of up to 6 years. A trial in court must prove that a defendant willfully and maliciously set fire and burned a non-inhabited structure or a forest.
Penal Code Section 451(d) – Arson of your own property or the property of another person. This felony is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 3 years. It must be proven during the prosecution that a defendant willfully and maliciously set fire and burned the property belonging to him/herself or another person.
For one to be found guilty of an arson crime, the prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant set fire to a property or land area with willful and malicious intent. To set fire in this case means to damage or destroy with fire, no matter how small the part. For an act to be considered malicious, the defendant must have been acting in an intentionally wrong manner during the act, such as to defraud or injure another party.
If you have been accused of an arson crime in California, you need to seek the services of a criminal defense arson crimes attorney. If you have been arrested or are under investigation with an arson offense, contact the Joe Shemaria Law Firm. We have extensive experience on cases involving arson, and we know how to resolve your case so that you avoid conviction. Contact an arson crime criminal defense attorney today for a free consultation.