If a person deliberately sets anything on fire in California, it can be considered arson. The hot, dry climate of the state has caused many issues in previous years, including serious wildfires. As a result, if a person sets fire to something then they can end up facing arson charges.
The penalties for arson can vary widely depending on the particular type of arson. There are two main types, malicious and reckless, and the main difference between the two is what the alleged perpetrator’s motivation was. Note that even a fire that was set by accident could result in jail time. For this reason, it is always worth it to talk to a criminal defense attorney if you are charged with or accused of arson.
Malicious arson is the more serious offense
To be convicted of malicious arson, the prosecution must prove that a person not only set something on fire but that they did so on purpose and with the intent to cause serious damage. For example, if they set the fire to hurt someone, defraud an insurance company, or annoy their neighbors. The alleged perpetrator does not have necessarily need to have completely destroyed the property – simply setting the fire can be enough for a conviction.
In most cases, the property that was burned must have belonged to another person. As a result, it is unlikely that a person would be charged with arson for setting their own property on fire. However, that has its own exceptions: If someone was injured in the fire or if the fire was set to defraud a person or company.
Reckless arson is more common
Also known as reckless burning, reckless arson is a less serious charge. To get a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the person accused set the fire and that they acted recklessly. The law defines “reckless” as ignoring known risks and taking actions that the courts do not find reasonable.
Note that reckless and negligent are not the same thing. Consider this: If a person left their home with their stove on and a fire started, this is negligent and they could be held liable in civil court, but it would not likely be considered reckless and subject to criminal action. On the other hand, if someone threw a lit cigarette onto dry land, then this would be reckless because they knew the area was dry and that it could start a fire, yet they threw it anyway.
Contact us now to find out more about how to fight arson charges
If you have been charged with arson, or have been accused of it, then it may be time to contact a criminal defense attorney for help. You can reach Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 now for a free legal consultation. We can go over the charges against you, the evidence, and your side of the story to determine the best way forward.